Moore v. Millennium Acquisitions, LLC et al

Filing 82

ORDER Granting in Part Plaintiff's 71 Motion for Attorneys' Fees, signed by District Judge Dale A. Drozd on 3/21/2017. (The court awards plaintiff $65,928.03 in attorneys' fees and litigation expenses.) (Gaumnitz, R)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 RONALD MOORE, 12 Plaintiff, 13 14 15 No. 1:14-cv-01402-DAD-SAB ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES v. (Doc. No. 71) MILLENIUM ACQUISITIONS, LLC, et al., Defendants. 16 17 This matter is before the court on plaintiff Ronald Moore’s March 31, 2016 motion for 18 19 attorneys’ fees. (Doc. No. 71.) Defendants filed their opposition to plaintiff’s motion on May 3, 20 2016. (Doc. No. 74.) On May 6, 2016, plaintiff filed their reply. (Doc. No. 76.) For the 21 following reasons, the court will grant in part and deny in part plaintiff’s motion for attorneys’ 22 fees. 23 FACTUAL BACKGROUND 24 Plaintiff, Ronald Moore, brought suit against defendants, Millenium Acquisitions, LLC, 25 and Timeless Investments, Inc., pursuant to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 26 U.S.C. § 12181 et seq. (“ADA”), the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 51, 27 (“Unruh Act”), and California Health & Safety Code § 19955. (Doc. Nos. 1, 19.) In his 28 complaint, plaintiff alleged accessibility violations at an ARCO AM/PM gas station located in 1 1 Fresno, California. (Id.) 2 On March 4, 2016, the court granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment in part. 3 (Doc. No. 61.) On March 8, 2016, pursuant to the stipulation of the parties, the claims remaining 4 after the granting of partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiff were dismissed and judgment 5 was entered. (Doc. Nos. 63, 64.) Thereafter, plaintiff moved for the award of attorneys’ fees 6 under the ADA and state law. (Doc. No. 71.) 7 ANALYSIS 8 Plaintiff moves for an award in the amount of $87,777.78, requesting $80,748.50 in 9 10 attorneys’ fees (after voluntarily deducting fees related to a sanctions motion brought against defendant), and $7,029.28 in litigation expenses. (Doc. No. 71-1 at 15.) The ADA and the Unruh Act permit a prevailing plaintiff to recover attorneys’ fees and 11 12 costs.1 42 U.S.C. § 12205; Cal. Civ. Code § 55. Fee-shifting statutes such as these “enable 13 private parties to obtain legal help in seeking redress for injuries resulting from actual or 14 threatened violation of specific . . . laws.” Pennsylvania v. Del. Valley Citizen’ Council for Clean 15 Air, 478 U.S. 546, 565 (1986). Attorneys’ fee awards are calculated through a two-step process 16 known as the “lodestar method.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983); Van Skike v. 17 Dir., Office of Workers’ Comp. Programs, 557 F.3d 1041, 1048 (9th Cir. 2009) (“The Supreme 18 Court has stated that the lodestar is the ‘guiding light’ of its fee-shifting jurisprudence, a standard 19 that is the fundamental starting point in determining a reasonable attorney’s fee.”) (quoting City 20 of Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 562 (1992)); Schwarz v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 21 73 F.3d 895, 901 (9th Cir. 1995). In the first step, a court multiplies hours reasonably spent in 22 litigation by a reasonable hourly rate. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433; Camacho v. Bridgeport Fin., 23 Inc., 523 F.3d 973, 978 (9th Cir. 2008); Ferland v. Conrad Credit Corp., 244 F.3d 1145, 1146–48 24 1 25 26 27 28 “The ADA gives courts the discretion to award attorney’s fees to prevailing parties.” Molski v. M.J. Cable, Inc., 481 F.3d 724, 730 (9th Cir. 2007). In contrast, a prevailing plaintiff is entitled to attorneys’ fees under the Unruh Act. Cal. Civ. Code § 52. Here, it is not contested that plaintiff is entitled to attorneys’ fees and costs under both of these provisions, and the court finds such an award to be appropriate. The only real dispute is whether the amount sought is reasonable. Therefore, the court will refer primarily to legal standards governing such an award under federal law. 2 1 (9th Cir. 2001). The party seeking an award of fees must submit evidence supporting the hours 2 worked and the rates claimed. Van Gerwen v. Guarantee Mut. Life Co., 214 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th 3 Cir. 2000); see also Hensley, 461 U.S. at 461. However, “a district court should exclude from the 4 lodestar amount hours that are not reasonably expended because they are excessive, redundant, or 5 otherwise unnecessary.” Van Gerwen, 214 F.3d at 1045 (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434); see 6 also McCown v. City of Fontana, 565 F.3d 1097, 1102 (9th Cir. 2009); Tahara v. Matson 7 Terminals, Inc., 511 F.3d 950, 955 (9th Cir. 2007). The lodestar amount should also exclude 8 hours that plaintiff spent on unsuccessful claims, if these claims were unrelated to claims plaintiff 9 brought successfully. McCown v. City of Fontana, 565 F.3d 1097, 1103 (9th Cir. 2009); 10 Schwarz, 73 F.3d at 901; see also Hensley, 461 U.S. at 44 (“[T]he extent of a plaintiff’s success is 11 a crucial factor for determining the proper amount of an award of attorney’s fees.”). In the second step, a court may adjust the lodestar amount “to account for other factors 12 13 which are not subsumed within it.” Ferland, 244 F.3d at 1149 n.4; see Kerr v. Screen Extras 14 Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 70 (9th Cir. 1975) (listing additional factors district courts may consider 15 in determining fee awards); see also Cairns v. Franklin Mint Co., 292 F.3d 1139, 1158 (9th Cir. 16 2002) (stating that “[t]he court need not consider all . . . factors, but only those called into 17 question by the case at hand and necessary to support the reasonableness of the fee award.”) 18 (citation omitted). Nonetheless, the lodestar amount is presumptively reasonable, and an 19 adjustment should occur only in “rare and exceptional cases, where there is both specific evidence 20 on the record and detailed findings” that the initial amount is unreasonably low or unreasonably 21 high. Van Gerwen, 214 F.3d at 1045 (internal quotations omitted); Camacho, 523 F.3d at 982; 22 see also Hiken v. Dep’t of Defense, 836 F.3d 1037, 1044 (9th Cir. 2016) (“There is a ‘strong 23 presumption’ that the lodestar figure represents a reasonable award.”). 24 I. Lodestar calculation 25 In their opposition to plaintiff’s motion for attorneys’ fees, defendants contend that 26 plaintiff has incorrectly calculated the lodestar amount. They make three arguments in this 27 regard: (i) both attorney Tanya Moore’s time purportedly expended on this case as well as her 28 hourly rate are excessive; (ii) the time purportedly spent by and hourly rate for paralegals Sacks 3 1 and Law are excessive; (iii) plaintiff is not entitled to the full amount of claimed litigation 2 expenses; and (iv) the award of attorneys’ fees should be reduced due to plaintiff’s limited 3 success in this litigation. The court analyzes each of defendants’ contentions below. 4 A. Reasonable hourly rates 5 The court “must determine a reasonable hourly rate to use for attorneys and paralegals in 6 computing the lodestar amount.” Gonzalez v. City of Maywood, 729 F.3d at 1196, 1205 (9th Cir. 7 2013) (citation omitted). In assessing applications for attorneys’ fees, the reasonable hourly rates 8 are to be calculated according to the prevailing market rates in the relevant legal community. 9 Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 (1984); Ingram v. Oroudjian, 647 F.3d 925, 928 (9th Cir. 10 2011) (“We have held that ‘[i]n determining a reasonable hourly rate, the district court should be 11 guided by the rate prevailing in the community for similar work performed by attorneys of 12 comparable skill, experience, and reputation.’”) (quoting Chalmers v. City of Los Angeles, 796 13 F.2d 1205, 1210–11 (9th Cir. 1986)); Van Skike, 557 F.3d at 1046. It is also the general rule that 14 the “relevant legal community” is the forum district, and that the local hourly rates for similar 15 work should normally be employed. Gonzalez, 729 F.3d at 1205; Prison Legal News v. 16 Schwarzenegger, 608 F.3d 446, 454 (9th Cir. 2010); Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1405 17 (9th Cir. 1992); Davis v. Mason County, 927 F.2d 1473, 1488 (9th Cir. 1991). The initial burden 18 is on the applicant to produce satisfactory evidence that the requested rate is “in line with those 19 prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, 20 experience and reputation.” Blum, 465 U.S. at 895 n.11; see also Gonzalez, 729 F.3d at 1206 21 (“[T]he fee applicant has the burden of producing ‘satisfactory evidence’ that the rates he requests 22 meet these standards.”); Nadarajah v. Holder, 569 F.3d 906, 916 (9th Cir. 2009); Camacho, 523 23 F.3d at 978; L.H. v. Schwarzenegger, 645 F. Supp. 2d 888, 893 (E.D. Cal. 2009) (“Finally, a 24 reasonable rate should reflect not only the market rates, but the skill and experience of the 25 prevailing party’s counsel.”). “[R]ate determinations in other cases, particularly those setting a 26 rate for the plaintiffs’ attorney, are satisfactory evidence of the prevailing market rate.” Hiken, 27 836 F.3d at 1044 (quoting United Steelworkers of Am. v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 896 F.2d 403, 407 28 (9th Cir. 1990); see also Welch v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 480 F.3d 942, 947 (9th Cir. 2007). 4 1 Plaintiff represents that attorney Moore specializes in representing plaintiffs in disability 2 actions, and has significant expertise litigating ADA actions such as this one. (Doc. No. 71-2 at 3 2, ¶ 2.) In her own declaration, attorney Moore states that she has filed and successfully 4 prosecuted nearly 1,000 civil rights actions, and that while her standard billing rate is $400 an 5 hour, she has reduced her rate for this case to $300 an hour. (Id. at 2–3, ¶ 5.) Plaintiff has not 6 submitted declarations in support of this claimed market rate but instead has chosen to rely 7 primarily on the fact that $300 per hour has been found reasonable for attorney Moore’s work in 8 the disability rights actions brought in the Fresno Division of the Eastern District of California 9 which he lists. (Doc. No. 71-1 at 9.) As noted, this is satisfactory evidence of the market rate. 10 In opposing the motion for attorneys’ fees, defendants argue that a $300 hourly rate is 11 unreasonable with respect to attorney Moore’s services and suggests that a $200 hourly rate is 12 more appropriate. (Doc. No. 74 at 14.) However, defendants offer no evidence whatsoever in 13 support of their suggestion that $200 an hour is the prevailing market rate, nor do defendants cite 14 any decisions in which the rate they suggest was found to be reasonable. 15 Accordingly, the court now finds—as other judges of this court have previously found— 16 that $300 is a reasonable hourly rate for attorney Moore’s work. See, e.g., Moore v. Watkins, No. 17 1:15-cv-00115 JAM-GSA, 2015 WL 5923404, at *5 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 9, 2015); Kalani v. Nat’l 18 Seating and Mobility, Inc., No. 2:13-cv-00061 JAM-CKD, 2014 WL 3956669, at *2–3 (E.D. Cal. 19 Aug. 13, 2014); Gutierrez v. Vantia Props., LLC, No. 1:13-cv-00642-LJO, 2014 WL 2106570, at 20 *8 (E.D. Cal. May 20, 2014); Moore v. E-Z-N-Quick, No. 1:13-cv-01522-LJO-SAB, 2014 WL 21 1665034, at *6 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 24, 2014); cf. Kalani v. Statewide Petroleum, Inc., No. 2:13-cv- 22 02287-KJM-AC, 2014 WL 4230920, at *6 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 25, 2014) (fixing attorney Moore’s 23 reasonable hourly rate at $250 per hour based upon the evidence presented in that case). 24 With respect to the hourly rate sought for paralegal work performed in connection with 25 this litigation, plaintiff seeks an hourly rate of $115. Once again, plaintiff relies on prior 26 decisions of judges of this court finding that to be the appropriate market rate for such work. 27 (Doc, No, 71-1 at 9.) In opposing plaintiff’s motion, defendants argue that a $115 hourly 28 paralegal rate is elevated. (Doc. No. 74 at 15–16.) In support of this contention, defendants cite 5 1 various decisions in which judges of this court have determined that in those cases the appropriate 2 hourly rate for paralegals was $75. See, e.g., Deocampo v. Potts, No. 2:06-1283 WBS CMK, 3 2014 WL 788429, at *9 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 25, 2014); Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Albright, No. 4 CIV. 2:11-2260 WBS CMK, 2013 WL 4094403, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 12, 2013). 5 Judges of this court have specifically determined that the reasonable market rate for work 6 performed by paralegals Sacks and Law in other ADA cases is $115 per hour. See, e.g., Moore v. 7 Watkins, No. 1:15-cv-00115 JAM-GSA, 2015 WL 5923404, at *5 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 8, 2015); 8 Gutierrez v. Leng, No. 1:14-cv-01027-WBS-SKO, 2015 WL 1498813, at *7 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 31, 9 2015); E-Z-N Quick, 2014 WL 1665034, at *6; cf. Kalani, 2014 WL 4230920, at *6 (finding that 10 a $75 hourly rate was appropriate for work performed by paralegals Sacks and Law). Those prior 11 determinations are satisfactory evidence of the prevailing market rate. See Hiken, 836 F.3d at 12 1044. Accordingly, the court determines that the $115 hourly rate for the work of paralegals 13 Sacks and Law to be the prevailing market rate that it will adopt. 14 B. Hours reasonably expended 15 The attorneys’ fee applicant also bears the burden of establishing the appropriate number 16 of hours expended. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437; see also Carson, 470 F.3d at 891; Jadwin v. 17 County of Kern, 767 F. Supp. 2d 1069, 1100 (E.D. Cal. 2011) (“The fee applicant bears the 18 burden of documenting the appropriate hours expended in the litigation and must submit evidence 19 in support of those hours worked.”). The party opposing the fee application has the burden of 20 rebutting that evidence. Camacho, 523 F.3d at 982; see also Toussaint, 826 F.2d at 904; Jadwin, 21 767 F. Supp. 2d at 1100 (“The party opposing the fee application has a burden of rebuttal that 22 requires submission of evidence to the district court challenging the accuracy and reasonableness 23 of the hours charged or the facts asserted by the prevailing party in its submitted affidavits.”). 24 25 1. Attorney Moore’s time As noted above, plaintiff seeks an attorney fee award of $80,748.50. According to billing 26 records submitted in connection with the motion, this fee request is in part based upon a total of 27 201.7 hours expended on the case by plaintiff’s lead counsel, attorney Tanya Moore. (Doc. No. 28 71-1 at 10). With respect to the attorney time expended by attorney Moore, the court finds that 6 1 while the time claimed in connection with many of the tasks performed is reasonable, some of the 2 attorney time claimed is unreasonable, duplicative, or inadequately documented. Accordingly, 3 and as addressed in more detail below, the court concludes that the number of attorney hours 4 attributable to attorney Moore should be reduced. In moving for attorneys’ fees, plaintiff has presented attorney billing statements 5 6 documenting the following time spent reviewing communications from the court: 7 Date: Description: Time Billed: 8 9 1/13/2016 10 11 Disallowed: .2 .2 .1 .1 follow up with FedEx and to MS re response to Renee. 12/15/2015 12 13 Reviewed email from Renee, instructions to IM re Time Reviewed correspondence between Mr. Kharazi’s office and court. 12/3/2015 Reviewed Order Vacating 11-18-15 Hearing. .1 .1 11/10/2015 Communications with the opposing counsel and court .5 .5 14 15 regarding PMK deposition being reconvened. 16 17 11/10/2015 Reviewed Order Modifying November 9, 2015 Order. .2 .2 18 11/09/2015 Email to the court. .4 .4 19 11/06/2015 Reviewed Minutes for proceedings before Magistrate .1 .1 .4 .4 .1 .1 Judge Stanley A. Boone. 20 21 11/05/2015 Preparation for the informal discovery conference and 22 communications with the court and opposing counsel re 23 same. 24 5/29/2015 Reviewed the minute order re informal discovery conference. 25 26 5/27/2015 Reviewed the minute order. .1 .1 27 9/9/2014 Civil new Case Documents, Summons reviewed. .1 .1 28 Instructions re calendaring, scheduling and 7 1 communications with client. 2 3 The court finds that the time attributed above to certain tasks is unreasonable. In 4 particular, the amount of time spent by attorney Moore reviewing the docket, orders, and other 5 documents is unreasonable when considered collectively. Such entries reflect amounts of time 6 that are either excessive or relate to clerical tasks that should not be billed at an attorney rate. See 7 E-Z-N Quick, 2014 WL 1665034, at *6; see also Missouri v. Jenkins by Agyei, 491 U.S. 274, 288 8 n.10 (1989); Sierra Club v. U.S. E.P.A., 625 F. Supp. 2d 863, 868 (N.D. Cal. 2007). The court 9 will therefore reduce attorney Moore’s hours billed by 2.3 in this regard. Additionally, the court finds that some time entries attributable to attorney Moore are 10 11 duplicative of tasks billed by paralegals. Specifically, the following entries billed by attorney 12 Moore parallel time also billed by paralegals Sacks and Law, and are deemed by the court to be 13 unnecessarily duplicative : 14 Date: Description: Time Billed: 15 16 10/8/2015 Instructions to MS re research re improper objections 17 1.4 1.4 .4 .4 .4 .4 1.2 1.2 research and instructions re preparation for the meet and 19 Disallowed: and representation of Fabiola Gutierrez. Reviewed 18 Time confer and correspondence to Mr. Kharazi re same. 20 10/6/2015 Preparation for medical expert deposition: instructions 21 to MS re correspondence with the expert. Reviewed 22 emails prepared by MS. 23 10/1/2015 Instructions to paralegal re preparation of the stipulation 24 re discovery deadline extension to accommodate 25 unavailability of Mr. Horn, expert witness identified by 26 Mr. Kharazi. 27 7/13/2015 Reviewed correspondence from Mr. Kharazi of July 8 28 8 1 and prepared a response. Further reviewed emails re 2 deposition dates – no response from Mr. Kharazi found. 3 Instructions to WL re further preparation for 4 5 depositions. 4/27/2015 6 11 12 13 14 .9 2.1 2.1 Instructions to MS re preparation of the response to 8 10 .9 deposition and request for production of documents. 7 9 Reviewed/analyzed Defendant’s Notice of taking both. Reviewed/finalized the draft for service. 1/13/2015 Reviewed Defendant Timeless Investments, Inc.’s First Set of Requests for Production of Documents, instructions to MS re preparation of Plaintiff’s Response, file reviewed to determine what documents are responsive, conference with the client. Finalized the draft prepared by MS. 15 16 Because the amounts of time attributed to attorney Moore are deemed to be unreasonably 17 duplicative of time billed by the paralegals in this action, the court will reduce attorney Moore’s 18 hours billed by an additional 6.4 hours. 19 Next, the court finds that time billed by attorney Moore in connection with drafting court 20 filings to be unreasonable in some respects given the nature of this action and her experience in 21 litigating ADA actions. In this regard, attorney Moore states that she spent 1.5 hours on July 8, 22 2014, and .1 hours on August 22, 2014 preparing and reviewing the complaint filed in this action. 23 (Doc. No. 71-3 at 22.) However, according to her own declaration, attorney Moore has filed 24 nearly 1,000 actions in similar civil rights cases. (Doc. No. 71-2 at 2.) The complaint in this case 25 contains largely boilerplate language that attorney Moore has used in complaints filed in other 26 cases. See, e.g., Complaint, Moore v. Watkins, No. 1:15-cv-00115 JAM-GSA, 2015 WL 27 5923404, at *5 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 9, 2015), Doc. No. 1. The court finds that the drafting of the 28 complaint in this action should have consumed not more than .5 hours of attorney Moore’s time 9 1 and, therefore, will deduct 1.1 hours from attorney Moore’s time as billed. See E-Z-N-Quick, 2 2014 WL 1665034, at *6 (finding “that .5 hours of Ms. Moore’s time [was] sufficient to draft the 3 complaint,” and not permitting any additional time billed for drafting and review by paralegals). 4 However, the court finds that plaintiff may properly bill for traveling. Ms. Moore seeks to 5 recover fees for travel time spent on the case, and her billing statement includes the following: 1.2 6 hours on June 9, 2014, inspecting the site in preparation of the complaint, (Doc. No. 71-3 at 21); 1 7 hour on June 5, 2015, 7 hours on September 2, 2015, and 1 hour on September 3, 2015, traveling 8 to confer with the client after a deposition, (Id. at 15, 17); 7 hours on October 2, 2015, and 4 9 hours on November 10, 2015, traveling for witness depositions, (Id. at 8, 13–14). Defendants 10 contend that plaintiff is not entitled to bill for travel time, as he should bear the cost of the 11 decision to hire non-local counsel. (Doc. No. 74 at 13.) The Ninth Circuit has recognized that 12 district courts may properly allow reasonable travel expenses, however. See Lemus v. Burnham 13 Painting & Drywall Corp., 426 Fed. Appx. 543, 546 (9th Cir. 2011); Nadarajah v. Holder, 569 14 F.3d 906, 924 (9th Cir. 2009). The court thus finds that this time was reasonably expended and 15 will be allowed. 16 Accordingly, the court concludes that the amount of time reasonable expended on this 17 action by attorney Moore to be 191.9 hours—201.7 hours billed minus the court’s reductions of 18 9.8 hours. 19 20 2. Paralegal time reasonably spent As noted, plaintiff also seeks compensation for time billed to paralegals on this case. 21 Specifically, plaintiff seeks compensation for 170.3 hours spent by paralegal Marejka Sacks and 22 20.9 hours spent by paralegal Whitney Law. (Doc. Nos. 71-1 at 10; 71-2 at 2–3, ¶ 5.) 23 Regarding the number of hours expended by paralegals, the court finds that although the 24 amount of time claimed for certain tasks is reasonable, some of the time billed by paralegals is 25 unreasonable, duplicative, or inadequately documented and should be reduced. For one, the court 26 finds that time billed to paralegals for assistance with drafting and reviewing certain court 27 submissions is unreasonable. Plaintiff offers that paralegal Law spent .6 hours on July 28, 2014, 28 preparing the initial complaint, and .7 hours on March 19, 2015, preparing the First Amended 10 1 Complaint. For the reasons stated above, the court finds that all of this time ascribed to paralegal 2 assistance is excessive and will deduct 1.3 hours from paralegal Law’s billed time. See E-Z-N- 3 Quick, 2014 WL 1665034, at *6 (finding “that .5 hours of Ms. Moore’s time [was] sufficient to 4 draft the complaint,” and not permitting any additional time billed for drafting and review by 5 paralegals). 6 In opposing plaintiff’s motion for attorneys’ fees, defendants argue that the court should 7 reduce the billed time for paralegal hours due to the clerical nature of certain tasks performed. 8 (Doc. No. 74 at 16.) The court agrees. See Missouri, 491 U.S. at 288 n.10; Escobedo v. SJZ 9 Shields, LLC, No. 1:15-cv-00765-SAB, 2015 WL 6123531, at *8 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 16, 2015). In 10 this regard, the court finds that the pending application is unreasonable as to the paralegal time 11 billed for performing clerical duties. Billings that will be rejected for this reason are the 12 following: 13 Paralegal: Date: Description: Time Billed: 14 15 Ms. Sacks 1/18/2016 16 17 Ms. Sacks 1/11/2016 Ms. Sacks 12/14/2015 Ms. Sacks 11/11/2015 Ms. Sacks 9/29/2015 1.6 Create Table of Authorities; finalize all .8 .8 Review notes provided by Mike Bluhm taken .1 .1 Call to Dr. Levin re scheduling depositions; .1 .1 .6 .6 .2 .2 email doctor. Ms. Sacks 9/8/2015 26 27 Revise reply; final proofread pending client’s 1.6 by his father; email to defense counsel. 24 25 .4 documents for filing. 22 23 .4 declaration. 20 21 Disallowed: hearing. 18 19 Review and assemble documents for MSJ Time Put together final expert disclosures with tabs and exhibits. Ms. Sacks 9/2/2015 Communications with expert doctor; prepare 28 11 1 2 fee agreement; email to doctor. Ms. Sacks 6/12/2015 3 .4 .4 .2 .2 .1 .1 Kharazi and Vasquez to meet and confer 4 regarding Defendants’ discovery responses; 5 6 Participate in telephone conference with take notes. Ms. Sacks 4/15/2015 7 Calendar dates for document production (when objections due). 8 Ms. Sacks 11/26/2014 Review order continuing MSC; ensure new 9 dates and tasks properly calendared. 10 Ms. Law 11/5/2015 Review Google maps and save images. .4 .4 Ms. Law 9/1/2015 Prepare file for depositions. 1.1 1.1 Ms. Law 4/15/2015 Review scheduling order and continue .4 .4 .3 .3 .1 .1 .1 .1 11 12 13 calendaring dates. 14 Ms. Law 1/21/2015 Review scheduling order and calendar initial 15 dates. 16 17 Ms. Law 11/19/2014 regarding continuing the scheduling 18 conference. 19 20 Email from and to Kharazi’s paralegal Ms. Law 9/10/2014 Review order setting MSC and ensure properly calendared. 21 22 As a result, the hours billed to paralegal Sacks will be reduced by a total of 4.5 hours, and 23 the hours billed to paralegal Law will be reduced by an additional 2.4 hours. With these 24 reductions, the amount of time reasonably expended by paralegals is determined to be 183.0 25 hours—165.8 hours by paralegal Sacks and 17.2 hours by paralegal Law. 26 ///// 27 ///// 28 12 1 C. Litigation expenses 2 Plaintiff also seeks to recover litigation expenses in the amount of $7,029.28. (Doc. Nos. 3 4 71-1 at 14; 71-2 at 3–5, ¶¶ 9–16.) In 42 U.S.C. § 12205, Congress authorized a district court, in its discretion, to allow the 5 prevailing party other than the United States to recover a reasonable attorneys’ fee, including 6 litigation expenses and costs. The statutory provisions of the ADA provide direct authority for 7 the award of expert witness fees as litigation expenses under the ADA. See Lovell v. Chandler, 8 303 F.3d 1039, 1058 (9th Cir. 2002). Unlike a bill of costs, which is processed by the court clerk 9 after filing, a motion for attorneys’ fees must be submitted through motion filed with the court. 10 Pierce v. County of Orange, 905 F. Supp. 2d 1017, 1046 (C.D. Cal. 2012); see generally 28 11 U.S.C. § 1920. 12 Here, plaintiff requests payment of various litigation costs including costs of service, a fee 13 for site inspection of the relevant property, and expert’s fees in connection with depositions taken 14 (Doc. No. 71-1 at 14), which are compensable under 42 U.S.C. § 12205 and Lovell. 15 In their opposition to the pending motion, defendants argue that such costs should be 16 reduced for four reasons. First, defendants argue that plaintiff’s litigation expenses should not be 17 awarded because they were not included in plaintiff’s cost bill. (Doc. No. 74 at 17.) Defendants 18 point particularly to services billed by Dr. Levin and Geoshua Levinson; postage and Fed Ex 19 Charges; and LexisNexis charges. (Id. at 16–17.) Second, defendants contend that plaintiff may 20 not recover litigation costs for postage and Fed Ex charges because “no statutory reference is 21 cited for these charges.” (Id.) Third, defendants argue that the court should not award full costs 22 incurred in connection with two depositions of a Mr. Bluhm, because the second deposition was 23 only made necessary because Mr. Bluhm failed to provide his field notes during his first 24 deposition. (Id.) Fourth, defendants argue that plaintiff may not claim costs for Mr. Levinson’s 25 “pre-filing ADA photographing” services, because these services were performed months after 26 the suit was prepared. (Id. at 17.) Fifth, defendants argue that plaintiff should not receive the full 27 amount of fees requested for the services of Dr. Levin. (Id. at 16–17.) In this regard, defendants 28 13 1 contest plaintiff’s alleged $1,325 payment to Dr. Levin for deposition preparation,2 and note that 2 at his deposition Dr. Levin stated that he had received only $1,200 from plaintiff. (Id. at 16.) 3 In his reply, plaintiff refutes defendants’ arguments concerning litigation costs. First, 4 plaintiff argues that the litigation expenses in this ADA action need not be included in the cost 5 bill, as they are not costs that can be taxed by the clerk of the court. (Doc. No. 76 at 3.) Second, 6 plaintiff argues that he may properly recover out-of-pocket expenses such as postage, courier, and 7 electronic research costs as litigation expenses. (Id. at 10–11.) Third, plaintiff clarifies that he 8 seeking only to recover costs for the first of Mr. Bluhm’s two depositions, and that the full 9 amount sought is compensable. (Id. at 11.) Finally, plaintiff argues that Dr. Levin was indeed 10 paid a total of $1,325 for his deposition preparation, but that he is “willing to waive the [disputed 11 amount,] $62.50. (Id. at 10.) 12 The court finds that the litigation expenses sought by plaintiff in the pending motion are 13 reasonable. For one, defendants’ arguments concerning plaintiff’s bill of costs fail to recognize 14 the differences between a bill of costs and a motion for attorneys’ fees. A bill of costs permits 15 parties to recover “costs other than attorney’s fees,” whereas a motion for attorneys’ fees allows 16 parties to recover various nontaxable expenditures, including litigation expenses. See Fed. R. 17 Civ. P. 54(d); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1920; Local Rule 242. Thus, a plaintiff should not include in 18 their bill of costs any fees to be requested in a motion for attorneys’ fees. See United 19 Steelworkers of Am., 896 F.2d at 407 (stating that “litigation expenses are reimbursable as part of 20 the attorneys’ fee, distinct from the costs already awarded to plaintiffs under 28 U.S.C. § 1920,” a 21 statute concerning bills of costs). Plaintiff’s failure to include in his bill of costs various expenses 22 requested through his motion for fees therefore does not require reduction of his attorneys’ fees 23 award. Secondly, defendants’ arguments concerning plaintiff’s postage, courier, and research 24 25 costs are unpersuasive. Plaintiffs may recover expenses for postage, courier services, and online 26 27 28 2 In his pending motion for attorneys’ fees, plaintiff seeks only half of the $1,325 paid to Dr. Levin, indicating that this total amount reflects payment that Dr. Levin rendered for services in connection with two separate cases. 14 1 research under the ADA. See, e.g., Chapman v. Pier 1 Imports, Inc., No. CIV. S-04-1339 2 LKK/DAD, 2007 WL 2462084, at *5 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 24, 2007). 3 Third, while defendants claim that Mr. Levinson’s alleged “pre-filing ADA 4 photographing” in August 2014 occurred after plaintiff had already prepared this lawsuit, (Doc. 5 No. 74 at 17), plaintiff’s complaint in this action was not filed until September 2014, (Doc. No. 6 1). Defendants have provided no evidence suggesting that expenses related to services provided 7 by Mr. Levinson were not properly incurred as litigation expenses in connection with this action. 8 Accordingly, the court finds that plaintiff is entitled to recoup the cost of Mr. Levinson’s services. 9 Finally, because plaintiff voluntarily accepts a reduction of $62.50 in the fee charged for 10 Dr. Levin’s services, the court need not address defendants’ arguments concerning Dr. Levin’s 11 testimony and the costs associated therewith. 12 13 Accordingly, plaintiff is entitled to an award of $6,966.78 in litigation expenses, representing plaintiff’s requested $7,029.28 minus plaintiff’s voluntary $62.50 reduction. 14 D. Plaintiff’s success 15 Defendants argue that the lodestar figure should also be reduced because plaintiff did not 16 17 succeed in all claims. (Doc. No. 74 at 6, 14.) In determining the lodestar figure, courts must consider the “results obtained” in the 18 litigation. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 44 (“[T]he extent of a plaintiff’s success is a crucial factor for 19 determining the proper amount of an award of attorney’s fees under 42 U.S. § 1988.”); A.D., 712 20 F.3d at 460; Schwarz, 73 F.3d at 901–02 (noting that “if only partial or limited success was 21 obtained, full compensation may be excessive”); McGinnis v. Kentucky Fried Chicken of Cal., 51 22 F.3d 805, 808 (9th Cir. 1994) (observing that a district court “must reduce the attorneys fee award 23 so that it is commensurate with the extent of the plaintiff’s success”). In considering this factor, 24 the court must first determine whether “the plaintiff[s] fail[ed] to prevail on claims that were 25 unrelated to the claims on which [they] succeeded [.]” Hensley, 461 F.3d at 434; see also A.D., 26 712 F.3d at 460; Webb v. Sloan, 330 F.3d 1158, 1168 (9th Cir. 2003). “[C]laims are unrelated if 27 the successful and unsuccessful claims are distinctly different both legally and factually; claims 28 are related, however, if they involve a common core of facts or are based on related legal 15 1 theories.” Dang v. Cross, 422 F.3d 800, 813 (9th Cir. 2005); see also Webb 330 F.3d at 1168. If 2 the successful claims are unrelated to the unsuccessful claims, “the hours expended on the 3 unsuccessful claims should not be included in the fee award.” Dang, 422 F.3d at 813; see also 4 Schwarz, 73 F.3d at 904. In such cases, the court may either identify specific hours that should be 5 eliminated or simply reduce the award to account for the limited success. Schwarz, 73 F.3d at 6 904; see also Martinez v. Longs Drug Stores, Inc., No. CIVS031843DFLCMK, 2005 WL 7 3287233, at *3–4 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 28, 2005). If unsuccessful claims and successful claims are 8 related, however—if they are based on “a common core of facts” or “related legal theories”—then 9 the court focuses on the significance of the overall relief obtained, and “a plaintiff who has won 10 substantial relief should not have . . . attorney’s fee[s] reduced.” Schwarz, 73 F.3d at 901–02 11 (citing Hensley, 461 U.S. at 435). 12 It is important to recognize, however, that in determining appropriate attorneys’ fees in 13 actions involving only partial success by the prevailing party, the Supreme Court has uniformly 14 rejected application of strict proportionality or simple arithmetic proration. City of Riverside v. 15 Rivera, 477 U.S. 561, 574 (1986) (“We reject the proposition that fee awards . . . should 16 necessarily be proportionate to the amount of damages a civil rights plaintiff actually recovers.”); 17 Hensley, 461 U.S. at 435 n.11 (“We agree with the District Court’s rejection of a mathematical 18 approach comparing the total number of issues in the case with those actually prevailed upon.”) 19 (internal quotation marks omitted); McCown, 565 F.3d at 1103 (“[T]he Supreme Court has 20 disavowed a test of strict proportionality.”); see also McGinnis, 51 F.3d at 808 (rejecting 21 arithmetic proration of the lodestar based upon percentage of claims upon which the plaintiff 22 prevailed because that proposition “makes no practical sense”); Rodgers v. Claim Jumper Rest., 23 LLC, No. 13-cv-5496 YGR, 2015 WL 1886708, at *11 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 24, 2015) (“[F]ederal 24 courts have uniformly rejected tests involving strict proportionality or simple arithmetic 25 proration.”). 26 Here, the court concludes that some reduction in the attorneys’ fee award is appropriate 27 given results obtained by the plaintiff. In his FAC, plaintiff alleged twenty three independent 28 architectural barriers, including twenty separate violations of the ADA and the Unruh Act, and 16 1 three independent violations of the Unruh Act. (Doc. No. 61 at 24–25.) Plaintiff ultimately 2 succeeded on sixteen of his twenty ADA claims, and failed to succeed on four claims involving 3 alleged violations of both the ADA and the Unruh Act, as well as on three independent Unruh Act 4 claims. (Doc. No. 61 at 24–25.) The seven claims upon which plaintiff was unsuccessful appear 5 to be unrelated to the sixteen claims upon which he succeeded in that each was a distinct alleged 6 violation requiring presentation and consideration of separate evidence. Therefore, the court 7 concludes that plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees award must be reduced to reflect his limited, albeit 8 significant, success. 9 The time records provided by plaintiff are not sufficiently detailed to allow the court to 10 match each entry to plaintiff’s corresponding claims. Consequently, the court elects to reduce the 11 lodestar in a percentage amount corresponding with plaintiff’s success. See Hensley, 461 U.S. at 12 436–37 (recognizing this approach). Given that some of the requested fees would have been 13 incurred even if plaintiff had brought only the sixteen claims upon which he was ultimately 14 successful, as opposed to the twenty-three brought, the court finds that a 25% reduction of the fee 15 award will appropriately account for plaintiff’s degree of success in this action. See Rodriguez v. 16 Barrita, Inc., 53 F. Supp. 3d 1268, 1290 (N.D. Cal. 2014) (20% reduction from lodestar amount 17 appropriate in light of the limits on plaintiff’s success but also the public benefits achieved); 18 White v. Save Mart Supermarkets, No. Civ. S 03-2402 MCE KJM, 2005 WL 2675040, at *4 19 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 20, 2005) (reducing plaintiff’s award of attorneys’ fees by 20% to account for 20 limited success); Martinez, 2005 WL 3287233, at *4 (reducing plaintiff’s award of attorneys’ fees 21 by 2/3); Sanford v. GMRI, Inc., No. CV.S 04 1535 DFL CMK, 2005 WL 4782697, at *2 (E.D. 22 Cal. Nov. 14, 2005) (reducing plaintiff’s award of attorneys’ fees by 1/3). 23 II. Further adjustments to the lodestar amount 24 Defendants contend that plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees should be reduced even further below 25 the lodestar amount. They assert three reasons in arguing for a more significant reduction in the 26 award: (i) the lodestar amount is unreasonable in relation to the statutory damages recovered by 27 plaintiff in this case; (ii) Federal Civil Procedure Rule 68 requires a reduction in the lodestar; and 28 (iii) attorneys’ fees should be entirely disallowed in this case because the attorney-client 17 1 relationship between plaintiff and counsel is unconscionable. The court addresses defendants’ 2 arguments below. 3 A. Reasonableness in relation to statutory damages Defendants argue that plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees should be reduced because they are 4 5 unreasonable in relation to the $4,000 statutory damages awarded in this action. (Doc. No. 74 at 6 10.) 7 The court does not find defendants’ arguments to be persuasive. The Supreme Court has 8 expressly rejected the idea that there must be proportionality between attorneys’ fees and 9 statutory damages in civil rights cases. See City of Riverside, 477 U.S. at 578; see also Crandall 10 v. Starbucks Corp., Case No. 5:14-cv-05316-HRL, 2016 WL 2996935, at *5 (N.D. Cal. May 5, 11 2016) (rejecting this same argument for a reduction from the lodestar in an ADA case involving 12 the award of $4,000 in statutory damages); Blackwell v. Foley, 724 F. Supp. 2d 1068, 1077 (N.D. 13 Cal. 2010) (recognizing that “damages are not considered the primary purpose of . . . laws 14 protecting physically disabled persons” and that “[i]f fees were limited by the amount of 15 damages, no matter how meritorious the clients’ claims might be, attorneys simply would not take 16 these cases.”). Furthermore, “it is inappropriate for a district court to reduce a fee award below 17 the lodestar simply because the damages obtained are small.” Johnson v. Allied Trailer Supply, 18 No. 2:13-1544-WBS EFB, 2014 WL 1334006, at *6 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 3, 2014) (citing Quesada v. 19 Thompson, 850 F.2d 537, 540 (9th Cir. 1988)); see also Fair Hous. of Marin v. Combs, 285 F.3d 20 899, 908 (9th Cir. 2002). The court therefore declines to reduce plaintiff’s attorneys’ fee award based on the amount 21 22 of statutory damages awarded. 23 B. Rule 68 24 Defendants also contend that attorneys’ fees incurred after defendants’ March 2015 25 settlement offer should be barred by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68’s cost-shifting provision. 26 (Doc. No. 74 at 6.) 27 ///// 28 ///// 18 1 Rule 68 provides that if the judgment finally obtained is less favorable than an earlier 2 settlement offer, the offeree must pay the costs incurred after the making of the offer. Fed. R. 3 Civ. P. 68. However, under the plain language of Rule 68, costs are only shifted when the statute 4 authorizing the collection of fees defines those fees as an item of costs, such as with 42 U.S.C. 5 §§ 1983 and 1988. Marek v. Chesney, 473 U.S. 1, 9 (1985).3 The ADA provides that a 6 prevailing party may be awarded a “reasonable attorney’s fee, including litigation expenses and 7 costs.” 42 U.S.C. § 12205; see also White v. Sutherland, No. CIV S-03-2080 CMK, 2005 WL 8 1366487, at *1 (E.D. Cal. May 6, 2005). This provision does not define costs to include 9 attorneys’ fees. Deanda v. Sav. Inv., Inc., 267 Fed. Appx. 675, 677 (9th Cir. 2008)4; Kalani, 2014 10 WL 4230920, at *4. Accordingly, Rule 68’s cost-shifting analysis does not impact plaintiff’s fee 11 request in this ADA action. See Deanda, 267 Fed. Appx. at 677 (also declining to apply Rule 12 68’s cost-shifting analysis to ADA plaintiff’s fee request); Kalani, 2014 WL 4230920, at *4. 13 C. Public policy 14 Finally, defendants contend that plaintiff is not entitled to attorneys’ fees because the fee 15 agreement between plaintiff and his counsel is unconscionable. In particular, they argue that the 16 fee agreement does not permit plaintiff to share in attorneys’ fees, and that it involves an 17 unconscionable contingency fee arrangement. (Doc. No. 74 at 8–9.) However, California law 18 3 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Moreover, even were this not an ADA action, the Ninth Circuit has recognized in civil rights actions that “[b]ecause successful plaintiffs are entitled to attorney’s fees under section 1988, we must consider the amount of attorney’s fees accrued at the time of the offer when deciding whether the plaintiffs improved their positions by going to trial.” Corder v. Gates, 947 F.2d 374, 380 n.9 (9th Cir. 1991); see also Marek v. Chesny, 473 U.S. 1, 6–7 (1985) (explaining that Rule 68 should be interpreted to provide for a lump sum offer that would, if accepted, represent the defendant’s total liability including costs and, where appropriate, attorney’s fees); Barrios v. Diamond Contract Servs., Inc., 461 Fed. Appx. 571, 573 (9th Cir. 2011) (“The district court should have compared the offer of judgment to the jury verdict plus Barrios’s reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred at the time the Rule 68 offer was made.”); Sanders v. Roe, No. CV 01–10509 CJC (MLGx), 2007 WL 2258287, at *1 (C.D. Cal. Apr.1, 2007) (“However, in order to compare the amount of recovery to the amount of any offer, the Court must also consider the pre-offer costs accrued by the plaintiff.”). Application of these principles in this case would also lead to the conclusion that defendants’ Rule 68 offer of $4,001 has no impact on the court’s consideration of the pending motion for attorneys’ fees and litigation expenses. 4 Citation to this unpublished Ninth Circuit opinion is appropriate pursuant to Ninth Circuit Rule 36–3(b). 19 1 prohibits the sharing of legal fees with a person who is not a lawyer, and defendants have 2 provided no evidence of an unconscionable contingency fee agreement in this case. Defendants’ 3 argument in this regard is therefore rejected and the court will not reduce plaintiff’s fee award on 4 this ground. See Gomez v. H&R Gunlund Ranches, Inc., No. CV F 10-1163 LJO MJS, 2010 WL 5 5232973, at *9 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 16, 2010) (noting that the California Rules of Professional 6 conduct prohibit fee sharing with non-lawyers). 7 8 9 CONCLUSION Accordingly, the court finds that plaintiff is entitled to recover a reasonable attorneys’ fee. Based on the foregoing, the court awards plaintiff $58,961.25 in attorneys’ fees, calculated as 10 follows: 11 Attorneys/Paralegals: Hours: Rate: Total: 12 Attorney Moore 191.9 $300 $57,570.00 13 Paralegal Sacks 165.8 $115 $19,067.00 14 Paralegal Law 17.2 $115 $1,978.00 15 Sub-total $78, 615.00 16 Award with 25% Reduction/Neg. Mult. (3/4) $58,961.25 17 In addition, the court awards plaintiff $6,966.78 in litigation expenses, representing the 18 amount that plaintiff originally requested less the $62.50 reduction agreed to by plaintiff. 19 Accordingly, in total, the court awards plaintiff $65,928.03 in attorneys’ fees and 20 21 litigation expenses. IT IS SO ORDERED. 22 Dated: 23 March 21, 2017 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 24 25 26 27 28 20

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