Zander v Lake County, Indiana et al
ORDER GRANTS 127 Amended MOTION for Attorney Fees Second by Plaintiff Rebecca Zander and AWARDS in favor of Plaintiff Rebecca Zander against Defendant Samuel Orlich, Jr. $78,962.50 in attorney fees and $18,305.30 in costs. Signed by Magistrate Judge Paul R Cherry on 12/6/2017. (lhc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SAMUEL ORLICH, JR.,
CAUSE NO. 2:14-CV-400-PRC
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Order Awarding Attorney Fees and Costs
[DE 127], filed by Plaintiff Rebecca Zander on August 16, 2017. Defendant Samuel Orlich, Jr. filed
a response on September 18, 2017. Plaintiff has not filed a reply, and her deadline by which to do
so has passed. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motion.
Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant of battery, false imprisonment, and violation of federal
civil rights proceeded to jury trial, with the undersigned magistrate judge presiding by consent of
the parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The jury returned verdicts in favor of Plaintiff on all
claims and awarded compensatory and punitive damages. Plaintiff now requests $78,962.50 in
attorney fees and $18,305.30 in costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
42 U.S.C. § 1988 provides that “[i]n any action or proceeding to enforce . . . [42 U.S.C.
§1983] . . . the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney’s fee
as part of the costs.” “A plaintiff may be awarded attorney’s fees as a prevailing party if [she]
succeeds on ‘any significant issue in litigation which achieves some of the benefit [she] sought in
bringing suit.’” Bisciglia v. Kenosha Unified Sch. Dist. No. 1, 45 F.3d 223, 227 (7th Cir. 1995)
(quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). Attorney’s fees are awarded to prevailing
plaintiffs “almost as a matter of course.” Id.; accord Khan v. Galitano, 180 F.3d 829, 837 (7th Cir.
1999); Simpson v. Sheahan, 104 F.3d 998, 1001 (7th Cir. 1997).
Defendant does not argue that an award of fees is inappropriate. Therefore, the Court will
award fees. Defendant does argue, however, that the amount of fees awarded should be reduced from
the amount that Plaintiff requests. The Court will address Defendant’s arguments in turn.
First, Defendant asserts that the Court may consider his inability to pay when determining
the amount of attorneys fees to award. In support, Defendant cites Alizadeh v. Safeway Stores, 910
F.2d 234, 238 (5th Cir. 1990). Contrary to the rule in the Fifth Circuit, the Seventh Circuit Court of
Appeals has determined that, under § 1988, “[t]he defendant’s perceived ability to pay an attorney’s
fee award is not relevant to the determination of a reasonable fee.”1 Simpson, 104 F.3d at 1003; cf.
Entm’t Concepts, Inc., v. Maciejewski, 631 F.2d 497, 507 (7th Cir. 1980) (“[A]bility to pay is not
a ‘special circumstance’ that will bar an award of attorneys fees to a successful plaintiff.”); Jefferson
v. Ingersoll, Nos. 99 C 50362, 98 C 50042, 2002 WL 31598990, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 19, 2002).
Thus, Defendant’s argument to reduce the amount of fees on this basis is unsuccessful, as it is
contrary to legal precedent in this circuit.
Next, Defendant argues that Plaintiff should have submitted a copy of the fee agreement
between Plaintiff and her counsel and that the maximum fee allowable by the agreement should be
the maximum fee awarded under § 1988. Once again, Defendant cites to out-of-circuit jurisprudence
in support: Cooper v. Singer, 689 F.2d 929, 932 (10th Cir. 1982). Not only did the Seventh Circuit
Court of Appeals hold that “a contingent fee contract should not serve ‘as an automatic ceiling on
When awarding fees to a prevailing defendant, however, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has instructed
courts to consider the plaintiff’s ability to pay. Munson v. Friske, 754 F.2d 683, 697 (7th Cir. 1985) (“When a court
determines that a plaintiff can afford to pay the award, the congressional goal of discouraging frivolous litigation
demands that the full fees be levied.”).
the amount of a statutory award,’” explicitly disagreeing with Cooper in Lenard v. Argento, 699
F.2d 874, 900 & n.22 (7th Cir. 1983) (quoting Sanchez v. Schwartz, 688 F.2d 503, 505 (7th Cir.
1982)), but also the Supreme Court held that “a contingent-fee contract does not impose an
automatic ceiling on an award of attorney’s fees,” Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87, 93 (1989).
Thus, Defendant’s argument is based on an inaccurate statement of the law.
Defendant neither argues that Plaintiff’s counsel’s requested hourly fee—$350 per hour for
attorney work and $100 per hour for paralegal work—is unreasonable nor argues that the number
of hours of work spent on this litigation is unreasonable. Plaintiff has provided affidavits from her
counsel and paralegal and itemizations of time spent and costs incurred. A contingency fee
agreement, if any exists, is not necessary to determine the reasonable fee award in this matter. The
argument based on Cooper fails.
The Court finds the Plaintiff’s counsel’s hourly rates and the number of hours spent litigating
this matter to be reasonable and awards fees and costs in the amount requested.
Based on the foregoing, the Court hereby GRANTS the Motion for Order Awarding
Attorney Fees and Costs [DE 127] and AWARDS in favor of Plaintiff Rebecca Zander against
Defendant Samuel Orlich, Jr. $78,962.50 in attorney fees and $18,305.30 in costs.
So ORDERED this 6th day of December, 2017.
s/ Paul R. Cherry
MAGISTRATE JUDGE PAUL R. CHERRY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?