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Woodle v. Kohler Co.

March 16, 2007

DEWEY WOODLE PLAINTIFF
v.
KOHLER CO. DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James M. Moody United States District Court

ORDER

Pending is Plaintiff's Application for Attorneys Fees and Costs (#78). Thomas McGowan and John Coulter represented plaintiff at trial on his Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA") and Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993 ("ACRA").*fn1 At trial the jury found in favor of plaintiff on three of his ADA claims and in favor of defendant on one of plaintiff's ADA claims. Plaintiff's ACRA claims were not submitted to the jury.

At trial plaintiff sought back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages. The jury awarded back pay of $80,740.00, compensatory damages of $200,000.00 and punitive damages of $400,000.00. Subsequent to trial, both parties filed post trial motions which resulted in the Court setting aside the jury's verdict for punitive damages and granting plaintiff injunctive relief in the form of reinstatement.

Judgment for the plaintiff was entered on December 6, 2006, in the sum of $280,740.00 which was the amount of back pay and compensatory damages awarded by the jury.

Under the ADA a court may award a reasonable attorney's fee, including litigation expenses and costs, to the prevailing party in a suit commenced under the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12205. "In determining an appropriate award of attorney fees, a trial court must undertake a two step analysis: (1) the court must determine on which claims the plaintiff prevailed; and (2) on the claims on which plaintiff prevailed, the court must determine what amount of attorney fees is appropriate, taking into consideration, inter alia, the extent of plaintiff's success on those claims." Burks v. Siemens Energy Automation, Inc., 215 F.3d 880 (8th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).

"[A] plaintiff 'prevails' when actual relief on the merits of his claim materially alters the legal relationship between the parties by modifying the defendant's behavior in a way that directly benefits the plaintiff." Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 111-12, 113 S.Ct. 566, 573, 121 L.Ed.2d 494 (1992) (interpreting 42 U.S.C. § 1988). "If the plaintiff has won excellent results, he is entitled to a fully compensatory fee award, which will normally include time spent on related matters on which he did not win." Jenkins by Jenkins v. State of Mo., 127 F.3d 709, 715 (8th Cir. 1997) (42 U.S.C. § 1988).

The Court should use the lodestar method, only awarding fees at a reasonable hourly rate for time reasonably expended. Hanig v. Lee, 415 F.3d 822 (2005) (as applied to 42 U.S.C. § 1988).

Defendant contends that the Court should discount the request for fees and costs by 25% based upon duplication of time by the attorneys, the jury's finding in favor of defendant on one of the four claims, and the excessive hourly rate of the attorneys and paralegal who worked on behalf of plaintiff.

After reviewing the application, using the lodestar method of review including a consideration of the Johnson*fn2 factors, and finding that plaintiff was the prevailing party, the Court awards attorney's fees to (1) Thomas McGowan, at the rate of $225.00 an hour for 569.4 hours for a total of $128,115; (2) John Coulter, at the rate of $200.00 an hour for 126.5 hours for a total of $25,300.00; and (3) Nate Coulter, at the rate of $225.00 an hour for 19 hours for a total of $4,275.00. The Court will also allow $6,000.00 in paralegal fees resulting in a total of $163,690.00 in fees.

The Court will award as costs the $250.00 filing fee, the $112.00 paid for medical records from Ortho Arkansas, and the costs of any transcripts and video depositions used as testimony at trial. The remaining costs are considered incidental to normal preparation of trial.

Because the application does not specify which deposition the court reporter or video service produced, the plaintiff is directed to provide the amount paid for any transcript or video deposition which was used as testimony at trial. Upon receipt of this information, the Court will enter an amended judgment.

IT IS SO ORDERED 16 day of ...


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