United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
Elizabeth Awalt, as Administrator of the Estate of Robert Awalt, Plaintiff,
Rick Marketti, as Administrator of the Estate of Terry Marketti; Kevin Callahan, in his official capacity as Sheriff of Grundy County; Duane McComas, individually and in his official capacity as Superintendent of Grundy County Jail; Melanie Van Cleave; Patrick Sealock; Matthew Walker; Kim Lear; Roger Thorson; Robert Matteson; David Obrochta; County of Grundy; Correctional Health Companies, Inc.; Health Professionals, Ltd.; Dr. Stephen Cullinan; Marjorie Clauson; unknown employees of Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc. and Health Professionals, LTD; unknown Grundy County Correctional Officers; unknown Medical Personnel, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HONORABLE THOMAS M. DURKIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Awalt (“Plaintiff”), as administrator for the
estate of her husband Robert Awalt (“Awalt”),
brought this case seeking damages for Awalt's death while
he was detained in the Grundy County Jail. Prior to any
trial, Plaintiff reached settlements with the Grundy County
Sheriff's Office and its employees who were named as
defendants, and Nurse Marjorie Clausen who was employed by
Correctional Health Companies, Inc. (“CHC”), and
Health Professional, Ltd. (“HPL”) (together
“CHC/HPL”), which the County contracted with to
provide medical services in the Jail. A jury trial proceeded
against CHC/HPL and its employee, Dr. Stephen Cullinan.
Because evidence relevant to the claims against CHC/HPL was
unduly prejudicial to Dr. Cullinan, the trial was bifurcated
and claims against him were tried first, with the intent that
the same jury would hear the additional evidence against
CHC/HPL. The jury hung on the claims against Dr. Cullinan,
and the entire bifurcated trial was rescheduled. Before the
retrial commenced, Dr. Cullinan settled the claims against
him. The trial was again rescheduled, but CHC/HPL settled the
claims against it before trial.
settlements with the County Defendants, Nurse Clausen, and
Dr. Cullinan provided for Plaintiff's attorney's fees
and expenses. The settlement with CHC/HPL provided that
Plaintiff and CHC/HPL would submit a fee petition for
resolution by this Court. For the following reasons, the
Court awards Plaintiff's counsel $3, 279, 127.72 in fees
Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976 provides
that a district court, “in its discretion, may allow
the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney's
fee” in suits brought under certain federal civil
rights statutes, including 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985,
and 1986. 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b). “[A] prevailing
plaintiff should ordinarily recover an attorney's fee
unless special circumstances would render such an award
unjust.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424,
429 (1983) (quotation marks omitted). CHC/HPL has stipulated
that Plaintiff is a prevailing party in this case.
view of [its] superior understanding of the litigation,
” this Court has considerable “discretion in
determining the amount of a fee award.”
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437. The Court must
“‘provide a reasonably specific explanation for
all aspects of a fee determination, '” but its
explanation “need not be lengthy.” Pickett v.
Sheridan Health Care Ctr., 664 F.3d 632, 651 (7th Cir.
2011) (quoting Perdue v. Kenny A., 559 U.S. 542, 558
“starting point for determining the amount of a
reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on
the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.”
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. This calculation is
commonly known as the “lodestar.” E.g.,
Pickett, 664 F.3d at 639. “The party seeking
an award of fees” has the burden to “submit
evidence supporting the hours worked and rates
claimed.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433.
hours worked component of the lodestar excludes hours
“not reasonably expended, ” including
“excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary”
hours. Id. at 434 (quotation marks omitted).
“[T]he court should disallow not only hours spent on
tasks that would normally not be billed to a paying client,
but also those hours expended by counsel on tasks that are
easily delegable to non-professional assistance.”
Spegon v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 175 F.3d 544,
553 (7th Cir. 1999) (quotation marks omitted). The Court also
may reduce the hours calculation “[w]here the
documentation of hours is inadequate.”
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433.
hourly rate component of the lodestar “must be based on
the market rate for the attorney's work.”
Gautreaux v. Chicago Hous. Auth., 491 F.3d 649, 659
(7th Cir. 2007). “The market rate is the rate that
lawyers of similar ability and experience in the community
normally charge their paying clients for the type of work in
question.” Id. (quotation marks omitted).
“The attorney's actual billing rate for comparable
work is presumptively appropriate to use as the market
rate.” Denius v. Dunlap, 330 F.3d 919, 930
(7th Cir. 2003) (quotation marks omitted). “[O]nce an
attorney provides evidence establishing [the] market rate,
the opposing party has the burden of demonstrating why a
lower rate should be awarded.” Gautreaux, 491
F.3d at 659-60 (quotation marks omitted). In the absence of
“evidence of the attorneys' actual market rates,
” the Court properly considers as “next-best
evidence” the “rates awarded to similarly
experienced . . . attorneys [from the same city] in other
civil-rights cases in the district.” Montanez v.
Simon, 755 F.3d 547, 554 (7th Cir. 2014) (quotation
marks omitted). “[T]here is a strong presumption that
the lodestar figure is reasonable.” Perdue,
559 U.S. at 554. That presumption can be overcome only
“in those rare circumstances in which the lodestar does
not adequately take into account a factor that may properly
be considered in determining a fee.” Id.
parties' positions on the appropriate rates for
Plaintiff's counsel and paralegals are as follows:
case that CHC/HPL concedes “addressed similar issues
[and] was of similar complexity, ” Judge Holderman
found that attorneys from Plaintiff's counsel's firm
(including several of the attorneys in this case) met their
burden of establishing the market rate for their services,
based on evidence substantially similar to the evidence
submitted in support of Plaintiff's petition in this
Holderman reasoned as follows:
should consider the following factors when setting a
reasonable hourly rate:
(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, 461 U.S. at 430 n. 3. “The burden of
proving the ‘market rate' is on the fee applicant;
however, once the attorney provides evidence establishing his
market rate, the burden shifts to the defendant to
demonstrate why a lower rate should be awarded.”
Spegon v. Catholic Bishop of Chi., 175 F.3d 544,
554-55 (7th Cir.1999). Here [the plaintiff] ha[s] submitted
affidavits from each of the attorneys regarding their billing
rates, billing records, an expert report by Bruce Meckler
surveying prevailing hourly rates in the Chicago area, the
Laffey Matrix, and citations to other cases with comparable
hourly rate awards to the attorneys in question and other
comparable that Fox has amply met his burden of demonstrating
that the requested hourly rates are appropriate.
Fox v. Barnes, 2013 WL 4401802, at *2-3 (N.D. Ill.
Aug. 15, 2013). With one exception, Judge Holderman's
reasoning applies equally to this case, such that Plaintiff
has met her burden to establish the market rate for her
exception is Plaintiff's request for an hourly rate of
$600 for Arthur Loevy. This rate is $50 an hour greater than
that for Jon Loevy and Michael Kanovitz, who are considered
to be in the “top tier of civil rights trial attorneys
in the Chicago area.” Jimenez v. City of
Chicago, 2012 WL 5512266, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 14,
2012). Arthur Loevy's additional years of experience as
compared to Jon Loevy and Kanovitz appear to be the sole
basis for requesting an additional $50 per hour. However, at
this level of expertise, an attorney's number of years of
experience is largely irrelevant. The Court will limit the
“top tier” rate to $550 per hour.
makes several arguments in attempt to rebut Plaintiff's
evidence supporting the hourly rates sought. First, CHC/HPL
argues lower rates should be awarded based on a number of
other fee awards in similar cases in this jurisdiction.
See R. 625 at 9-10 (citing Weyker v.
Quiles, 2015 WL 5177970 (E.D. Wis. Sept. 4, 2015) ($500
per hour); Smith v. Altman, 2015 WL 5675376 (N.D.
Ill. Sept. 21, 2015) (counsel with 24 years of experience
awarded $425 per hour); id. (counsel with 17 years
of experience awarded $350 per hour); Golden v. World Sec
Agency Inc., 2014 WL 37829 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 6, 2014)
(counsel with 20 years of experience awarded $425 per hour);
Degorski v. Wilson, 2014 WL6704561 (N.D. Ill. Nov.
26, 2014) (counsel with 15 years of experience awarded $450
per hour); Jimenez, 2012 WL 5512266 (Jon Loevy
awarded $495 per hour; Michael Kanovitz awarded $450 per
hour; Arthur Loevy awarded $425 per hour; Joel Feldman
awarded $325 per hour; Steve Art awarded $225 per hour)). But
CHC/HPL concedes that attorneys from Plaintiff's
counsel's firm have been awarded higher hourly rates.
See R. 625 at 9. And Plaintiff cites a number of
civil rights cases from this district which awarded higher
fees. See R. 614-1 at 10 (citing Delgado v.
Mak, 2009 WL 211862 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 29, 2009) ($525 per
hour); Foltin v. Ugarte, 09 C 5237, Dkt. Nos. 144
& 165 (N.D. Ill. 2012) ($535 per hour); Flanagan v.
Cook County, 2009 WL 3156716, *9 (N.D. Ill. Sep. 28,
2009) ($500 per hour)). Taken as a whole, these past awards
do not serve to rebut Plaintiff's requested hourly rates.
CHC/HPL also cites ALM Legal Intelligence's Survey of Law
Firm Economics in support of the lower rates they suggest.
This survey collected data in 2013 and does not break out
data for civil ...