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McDonough v. Briatta

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 27, 2013

PATRICK McDONOUGH, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS BRIATTA, et al., Defendants

Page 898

For Patrick McDonough, Plaintiff: Jonathan I. Loevy, LEAD ATTORNEY, Arthur R. Loevy, Daniel Moore Twetten, Elizabeth C. Wang, Kurt Henry Feuer, Michael I Kanovitz, Loevy & Loevy, Chicago, IL.

For City Of Chicago, Defendant: Cathryn Elizabeth Albrecht, James Francis Botana, Kenneth Charles Robling, Nadine C. Abrahams, Neil Hunter Dishman, Jackson Lewis LLP, Chicago, IL; Warren Lupel, Lupel Weininger LLP, Chicago, IL.

For Department of Water Management, Human Resources Board of the City of Chicago, Maureen Egan, Thomas Talley, Brian Murphy, Richard Rice, Alexander Vourstouris, Defendants: Cathryn Elizabeth Albrecht, James Francis Botana, Kenneth Charles Robling, Nadine C. Abrahams, Neil Hunter Dishman, Jackson Lewis LLP, Chicago, IL; Peter A Ahmadian, City of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Stan B. Stec, City of Chicago, Law Department, Chicago, IL; Timothy L. Swabb, City of Chicago, Law Department, Corporation Counsel, Chicago, IL.

For Michael Tierney, Defendant: Daniel A. Kaufman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP (Illinois), Chicago, IL; Laura Shroyer Liss, LEAD ATTORNEY, Patzik, Frank & Samotny Ltd., Chicago, IL; Brian P Paul, Michael Best & Friedrich, Chicago, IL; Dorothy M. Brackett, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Chicago, IL.

For Thomas Briatta, Defendant: Marshall Lee Blankenship, LEAD ATTORNEY, Paul E. Lehner, Randall L. Mitchell, Adducci, Dorf, Lehner, Mitchell & Blankenship, P.C., Chicago, IL.

For Anthony Laurino, Thomas Cook, Defendants: Terrence Michael Burns, LEAD ATTORNEY, Daniel Matthew Noland, Paul A. Michalik, Dykema Gossett PLLC, Chicago, IL; Josh Michael Engquist, Matthew Raymond Hader, City of Chicago (30 N LS), Chicago, IL; Robert K. Villa, Villa Law Firm LLC, St. Charles, IL.

OPINION

Page 899

REBECCA R. PALLMEYER, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Patrick McDonough, an employee of the City of Chicago (" City" ), brought suit against the City and various employees for allegedly retaliating against him for the exercise of his right to free speech. Several of his claims were dismissed, and all but one were decided for the Defendants at summary judgment. See McDonough v. City of Chicago, No. 06 C 2732, 2008 WL 2309709 (N.D. Ill. June 2, 2008); McDonough v. City of Chicago, 743 F.Supp.2d 961 (N. D. Ill. 2010). The case proceeded to trial on just one claim: that Defendant Thomas Briatta, a foreman in the Water Department where Plaintiff worked, had harassed Plaintiff verbally in violation of his constitutional rights. After jurors deadlocked on that single claim, Briatta and McDonough reached an agreement to settle it. McDonough has now filed a bill of costs and petitions for payment of his attorney's fees. Briatta acknowledges his liability for fees expended in obtaining a successful result, and for costs, but contends that McDonough has substantially overstated the amount to which he is entitled. For the reasons explained here, Plaintiff's motion [364] and petition [368-1] are granted in part and denied in part.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This case began more than six years ago and has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. (Pl.'s (Corrected) Pet. for Att'y's Fees [368-1], hereinafter " Pl.'s Pet.", at 1-2.) Plaintiff filed his original complaint on May 16, 2006. He asserted six counts against twelve Defendants associated with the City of Chicago Department of Water Management, alleging that Defendants retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights, which resulted in (1) a fabricated charge that Plaintiff violated City residence requirements; (2) a rigged investigation and hearing; (3) suspension and termination; and (4) further retaliation through reassignment and demotion after Plaintiff was reinstated. (Complaint [1].) District Judge Wayne Andersen granted the Defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint in part

Page 900

and denied them in part on June 6, 2008. McDonough v. City of Chicago, No. 06 C 2732, 2008 WL 2309709 (N.D. Ill. June 2, 2008). Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on June 24, 2008. (Am. Compl. [188].)

Extensive discovery followed. The remaining Defendants moved for summary judgment after discovery, and Plaintiff opposed that motion with respect to some but not all of his claims. On September 29, 2010, Chief Judge James Holderman entered summary judgment in favor of the Defendants on all but one claim: the claim of harassment against Defendant Briatta. McDonough v. City of Chicago, 743 F.Supp.2d 961 (N.D. Ill. 2010). Significantly, Plaintiff's dismissed claims included several other allegations against Briatta. Judge Holderman found that Plaintiff " presented no evidence" that Briatta had participated in or caused the investigation that resulted in Plaintiff's termination, and that Briatta could not be held liable for violating Plaintiff's First Amendment rights based on those events. ( Id. at 982.) Judge Holderman concluded, further, that Plaintiff's claims that Briatta disciplined him and denied him overtime and promotions were time-barred ( id. at 975-77, 987), and that Plaintiff's claim that Briatta transferred him between crews was not supported by sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment. ( Id. at 979.) The only remaining claim after summary judgment was thus that Briatta had verbally harassed Plaintiff between May and October 2006. ( Id. at 968, 971, 973-74, 978-79.)

Briatta asserts that the " vast majority" of discovery related to claims Plaintiff made about the investigation of his alleged residency violation and termination. In fact, according to Briatta, most of the discovery did not relate to Briatta at all. (Def. Thomas Briatta's Mem. in Opp. to Pl.'s Pet. [371], hereinafter " Def.'s Mem.", at 7-8; Blankenship Decl., Ex. A to Def.'s Mem. [371-1], at ¶ 4.) Instead, Briatta contends, only " a handful" of the thousands of pages of documents exchanged in discovery even mentioned him, and only 35 of the 1,177 pages of Plaintiff's deposition transcript focused on questions about his alleged verbal harassment of Plaintiff. (Blankenship Decl. ¶ ¶ 5-10; Def.'s Mem. at 8-9.)

Plaintiff's remaining claim, " the Briatta claim," was tried to a jury on May 23 and 24 of 2011. According to Defendant, Plaintiff's evidence at trial consisted of the testimony of Plaintiff and two other witnesses, Bruce Randazzo and Ramon Caraballo, that Briatta had threatened and harassed Plaintiff. Briatta's evidence consisted largely of his own testimony denying that he had harassed Plaintiff at all. (Def.'s Mem. at 2.) The trial concluded with a hung jury, and the parties entered into a Settlement Agreement in which Plaintiff recovered $50,000. The City of Chicago, a Defendant in the original action, paid for Briatta's defense throughout the litigation and agreed to make the $50,000 payment to Plaintiff under the Agreement. (Def.'s Mem. at 12.) The Agreement acknowledged that Plaintiff is the prevailing party on the Briatta claim for the purpose of attorney's fees. (Settlement ...


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