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Lawrence C. Barbee v. Christy-Foltz

January 26, 2011

LAWRENCE C. BARBEE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHRISTY-FOLTZ, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Bernthal U.S. Magistrate Judge

E-FILED

Wednesday, 26 January, 2011 03:54:00 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

ORDER

In March 2009, Plaintiff Lawrence C. Barbee field a Complaint (#1) against his employer, Defendant Christy-Foltz, Inc. Plaintiff brought suit under Title VII seeking damages for harassment based on race and for retaliation. In October 2010, after a four-day trial, a jury found Defendant liable for harassment, but not for retaliation. The jury awarded Plaintiff compensatory damages in the sum of $10,000, and punitive damages in the sum of $12,500.

In November 2010, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Attorney Fees and Costs (#60). Defendant filed Defendant's Objections and Response to Plaintiff's Petition for Attorney's Fees and Costs (#69). For the reasons below, the Court awards Plaintiff attorney fees and costs in the amount of $90,547.65. In addition to this amount, Plaintiff has filed Plaintiff's Motion to Supplement Petition for Attorney Fees (#72), seeking an additional $6,806.62. For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion (#72) and awards Plaintiff the amount requested.

I. Background

In March 2009, Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, Defendant Christy-Foltz, Inc., seeking damages for harassment based on race and for retaliation. Defendant is a closely held family corporation located in Decatur, Illinois. Christy-Foltz, Inc. created and owns another business entity known as Grohne Concrete Products (hereinafter "Grohne"). At the relevant time, in Fall 2007, Plaintiff worked as a truck driver for Grohne, hauling materials to construction sites. Grohne employs approximately 15 truck drivers, who report to Grohne's plant office throughout the day to submit paperwork and receive delivery assignments.

The following facts are taken from the evidence presented at trial, with inferences made in favor of Plaintiff. With respect to allegations of harassment, Plaintiff presented evidence that a co-worker had called him a "nigger," and that other co-workers had made inappropriate remarks about race in his presence. Shortly after Plaintiff complained to management about these incidents, and two employees were suspended for using the word "nigger," Plaintiff found two nooses in the workplace. Plaintiff's on-site manager, Ronald Grigg, concluded that the nooses had been present in the batch plant for years, and were not placed with an intention of harassing plaintiff. In the months that followed, Plaintiff felt that he was isolated in the workplace. Several of his co-workers testified at trial that they did not speak with Plaintiff because they were afraid Plaintiff would take their comments the wrong way. Throughout these events, Defendant failed to act to remedy the situation, despite Plaintiff's requests for counseling and other assistance. With respect to allegations of retaliation, Plaintiff claimed that, as a result of these events, he was denied an opportunity to transfer from his position as a "material hauler" to a "ready-mix truck driver," a position that would have higher compensation. After a four-day trial, a jury found Defendant liable for harassment, but not retaliation. The jury awarded Plaintiff compensatory damages in the sum of $10,000 and punitive damages in the sum of $12,500.

From January 2008 through the trial, Plaintiff was represented by Attorney Mary Leigh Leahy, an accomplished attorney with extensive experience representing plaintiffs in civil rights litigation. In addition, Attorney Douglas J. Quivey, a highly regarded trial attorney, served as co-counsel at trial.

II. Standard

In suits brought pursuant to Title VII, "the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney's fee . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e - 5(k). Determining what fees are reasonable is a highly contextual and fact-specific enterprise, and thus district courts have wide latitude in setting awards of attorney's fees. Sottoriva v. Claps, 617 F.3d 971, 975 (7th Cir. 2010). A common and accepted framework for calculating reasonable attorney's fees involves three steps: making a threshold determination regarding who is a prevailing party; determining a "lodestar figure" comprised of a reasonable fee multiplied by a reasonable number of hours expended on the litigation; and adjusting the "lodestar figure" upward or downward based on a variety of factors. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433-34 (1983). In making these determinations, a court must articulate its reasoning, both with respect to the direction and amount of adjustments it makes from a prevailing party's request for fees. Sottoriva, 617 F.3d at 976.

III. Discussion

Plaintiff has submitted a petition for attorney fees and costs in the amount of $108,047.65. This total includes $9,710.15 in costs, and $98,337.50 in attorney fees, based on a $350 per hour rate for Attorney Leahy and a $300 per hour rate for Attorney Quivey. Attorney Leahy and Attorney Quivey submit ...


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