scale ladder." People Who Care, 90 F.3d at 1315. The court will strike the time spent copying documents and reviewing and revising timesheets for a reduction of 10.5 hours.
Both Ms. Dimopoulos and Mr. Rossiello billed for time spent in court on the motions in limine. Defendant claims that only Ms. Dimopoulos actually argued the motions and that only she should be allowed this time. Although the court does not generally reimburse more than one attorney for appearing in court on a hearing, it will allow multiple attorneys (and a paralegal) to appear for motions in limine and other matters involving trial preparation on the day of trial. The court will also allow the hours Mr. Rossiello billed for preparing the motion for attorneys fees before the parties actually settled. Although anticipatory, these hours were eventually necessary and there is no indication that they are duplicative of hours spent on the fee petition after the parties actually did settle.
All of this leads the court to the lodestar amount in this case.
Ernest T. Rossiello, 79.7 hours @ $ 285/hour = $ 22,714.50
Elena M. Dimopoulos, 254.3 hours @ $ 140/hour = $ 35,602.00
Melinda H. Brom, 8.10 hours @ $ 160/hour = $ 1,296.00
Annice Kelly, 1.6 hours @ $ 175/hour = $ 280.00
Paralegal Time, 36.75 hours @ $ 75/hour = $ 2,756.25
Expenses of Suit = $ 6,789.73
Total = $ 69,438.48
Once the lodestar amount is calculated, the court may adjust the award according to plaintiff's level of success. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 439. Although the court rejected defendant's arguments as to whether plaintiff's recovery was de minimis, it finds that they are applicable to determining how the court will adjust the lodestar figure to reflect the level of success achieved. "Where a lawsuit consists of related claims, a plaintiff who has won substantial relief should not have [her] attorneys fees reduced simply because the district court did not adopt each contention raised. But where the plaintiff achieved only limited success, the district court should award only that amount of fees that is reasonable in relation to the results obtained." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 440. Plaintiff's success here was quite minimal, making a fully compensatory award inappropriate. She received a fairly insignificant monetary award compared with the damages requested. On the day of trial, defendant was unwilling to raise its settlement offer other than to let the court decide attorneys' fees. Defendant denied liability and refused to reinstate plaintiff. The agreement to provide a letter verifying dates of employment and hourly wage is not indicative of outstanding success, especially when defendant refused to include any statement that plaintiff's performance was satisfactory.
Although plaintiff emphasizes that the settlement included attorneys' fees, it is more accurate to say that it included only an agreement to litigate the fees issue. Defendant specifically rejected plaintiff's proposal that they litigate only the amount of attorneys' fees to be awarded and not whether the court should award them at all. It explicitly retained the right to argue to the court that plaintiff should receive no attorneys' fees. Because of plaintiff's limited success, the court finds that the requested award be reduced by half, bringing the lodestar figure to $ 34,921.74.
Defendant has offered another reason to reduce the award of attorneys' fees. Courts may deny or reduce attorneys' fees when the prevailing plaintiff unreasonably delayed the process, which defendant claims is the case here. Vocca v. Playboy Hotel of Chicago, 686 F.2d 605, 608 (7th Cir. 1982). In Vocca, the Seventh Circuit upheld the district court's denial of attorney's fees where plaintiff's counsel refused an early settlement offer that was only $ 1,538 less than eventually agreed upon because he felt that the defendant could simply afford to pay more than the plaintiff was entitled to. Defendant asserts that plaintiff's counsel refused to timely discuss settlement and prolonged the litigation only to increase the fees in the case. When plaintiff's counsel is prepared to try a case over the fee issue, as defendant claims was clearly the case here, it is an abuse of the public policy behind awarding fees and should not be sanctioned by the court.
This court observed firsthand plaintiff's counsel placing his interest in attorneys' fees over his client's interests. As Mr. Rossiello stated to the court in explanation of his denial to accept settlement on behalf of his client, "this case is all about fees." The court witnessed Mr. Rossiello's explicit rejection of settlement for his client because of the issue of attorneys' fees; his refusal to conduct settlement discussions with his client present as the court explicitly ordered, giving the court the clear impression that Mr. Rossiello did not want his client accepting a settlement that was not in his interests; and his peremptory dismissal of the court's law clerk, who was directed to speak to plaintiff and mediate between the parties during negotiations, which the court has found to be a successful method of facilitating settlement. After conducting negotiations between the parties during more than one settlement conference, there is no doubt in the court's mind that this litigation was prolonged and fees increased because of plaintiff's counsels' interests and not because of plaintiff's interests.
That this delay in settlement served only counsels' interests, and not plaintiff's, is evident when asking what plaintiff gained during the extended negotiations. The answer is nothing. It was never the actual settlement amount pertaining to the merits of the case that was unacceptable to plaintiff's counsel, the sticking point was the amount of attorneys' fees due. Plaintiff ultimately received little more than she would have if her counsel accepted this defendant's original offer. Counsel fared much better.
Although the court could in its discretion deny any award when it finds that counsel has unnecessarily prolonged litigation, it finds that further reducing the fee award is also appropriate. Considering that defendant made its first offer of $ 12,500 to plaintiff in March 1997, before the motions for summary judgment were filed and before the parties engaged in pretrial preparation, the court will reduce the $ 34,921.74 award by a third for a total award of $ 23,281.16. After reviewing the progression of the litigation in this case, the merits of plaintiff's case, her level of success and her counsels' conduct, the court finds that this award is reasonable.
ORDERED: For the foregoing reasons, the court grants plaintiff attorneys' fees in the amount of $ 23,281.16.
George W. Lindberg
United States District Judge
DATED: FEB 10, 1998