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Anderson v. Chicago Land Trust Co.

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

September 19, 2014

JOHN ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CHICAGO LAND TRUST COMPANY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HARRY D. LEINENWEBER, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

Plaintiff John Anderson ("Anderson") was injured while assisting in the removal of scaffolding from a construction work site. Anderson sued several entities associated with the project, including Defendant Safway Services, LLC ("Safway"), a company which he alleged was responsible for providing defective scaffolding components that were the cause of his injury.

On August 27, 2012, Safway moved for summary judgment on the basis that Anderson had adduced no evidence that it was the supplier of the scaffolding in question. In response to Safway's Motion, Anderson submitted an affidavit claiming that his "understanding" based upon "personal[] observ[ations]" was that Safway was the source of the scaffolding. Safway objected to Anderson's affidavit on grounds that his assertions were based upon inadmissible hearsay and contradicted testimony from his prior deposition in which he admitted that he had no personal knowledge as to the scaffolding's provider. Safway argued that Anderson had submitted the affidavit in bad faith and, therefore, it was entitled to reimbursement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(h) for the attorneys' fees that it had incurred in responding to Anderson's opposition to its Motion for Summary Judgment.

On September 27, 2013, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Safway [ECF No. 127]. Agreeing with Safway's characterization of Anderson's affidavit, the Court further ordered that Anderson pay Safway the reasonable costs and fees that it had expended preparing its reply brief and responding to Anderson's Additional Statement of Facts. ( Id. at 31-33). Anderson filed a Motion seeking reconsideration of that ruling, which the Court denied by Order dated March 6, 2014 [ECF No. 137]. The only remaining issue before the Court is the amount of fees to be awarded.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

In calculating a reasonable fee award, the Court multiplies the reasonable number of hours expended by a reasonable hourly rate. Anderson v. AB Painting and Sandblasting, 578 F.3d 542, 544 (7th Cir. 2009). This amount is referred to as the "lodestar." See, e.g., Pickett v. Sheridan Health Care Ctr., 664 F.3d 632, 639 (7th Cir. 2011). "Although the lodestar yields a presumptively reasonable fee, the court may nevertheless adjust the fee based on factors not included in the computation." Montanez v. Simon, 755 F.3d 547, 543 (7th Cir. 2014) (internal citations omitted). These factors include:

(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions; (3) the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly; (4) the preclusion of employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5) the customary fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorneys; (10) the undesirability' of the case; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar cases.

Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 430 n.3 (1983).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Reasonable Hourly Rate

Safway was represented in this action by the law firm Marasa Lewis, which is located in Chicago, Illinois. According to counsel's time records, two partners and one associate attorney worked on the summary judgment matters at issue. The two partners, Francis J. Marasa, Esq. and Jill B. Lewis, Esq., each billed at a rate of $225 per hour. The associate, Lauren E. Rafferty, Esq., billed at a rate of $215 per hour. Although Safway did not provide background details concerning these attorneys' respective levels of experience, the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission website indicates that Mr. Marasa has been authorized to practice in Illinois since 1976, Ms. Lewis since 1997, and Ms. Rafferty since 2010. See, www.iardc.org/lawyersearch.asp.

Courts assess the reasonableness of an attorney's requested hourly rate in view of the prevailing market rate for comparable legal services. Balcor Real Estate Holdings, Inc. v. Walentas-Phoenix Corp., 73 F.3d 150, 153 (7th Cir. 1996). Because "the best evidence of the market value of legal services is what people pay for it, " id., a showing that the party seeking fees actually paid the amounts billed ordinarily is sufficient proof that the requested fee is "commercially reasonable." Medcom Holding Co. v. Baxter Travenol Labs., Inc., 200 F.3d 518, 520-21 (7th Cir. 1999).

Because Safway has submitted invoices indicating that it paid Marasa Lewis' fees at the rates requested in its fee application, (Aff. of Mr. Marasa, sworn to on Mar. 2, 2014 ("Marasa Aff."), ΒΆ 5 & Ex. C, ECF Nos. 138-1, 138-3), the Court finds that there is substantial evidence that counsel's claimed hourly rates, which Anderson does not challenge, are reasonable. See, e.g., U.S. Bank Nat. Ass'n v. Long, No. 13-C-257, 2014 WL 3044617, at *3 (E.D. Wis. July 3, 2014) (finding a fee request reasonable where the party seeking fees submitted billing ...


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