Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hurd v. Cardinal Logistics Management Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

December 10, 2019

JOHN MILLARD HURD, Plaintiff,
v.
CARDINAL LOGISTICS MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Elizabeth K. Dillon United States District Judge

         Plaintiff John Millard Hurd filed this action against Cardinal Logistics Management Corporation (Cardinal) asserting two counts under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq., and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAA). On September 25, 2018, the court granted summary judgment to Hurd on his claim under 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d) and to Cardinal on Hurd's claim under 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). (Dkt. No. 62.) The parties later reached a settlement on the issue of damages but filed a joint stipulation of dismissal with prejudice that preserved jurisdiction in this court to decide the parties' motions for attorney's fees. (Dkt. No. 98.) Both parties filed motions for attorney's fees and costs. (Dkt. Nos. 92, 94, 102.) Those motions are fully briefed, and the court dispensed with oral argument. For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant in part and deny in part Hurd's motion and will deny Cardinal's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Hurd has a medical history of complex partial epilepsy but nonetheless became a commercial driver for Plygem Industries, Inc. (Plygem). In August 2015, after Cardinal acquired Plygem, Hurd applied to be a commercial driver with Cardinal. Cardinal required Hurd to submit to physical examinations-although he was already medically certified to drive as required by the Department of Transportation (DOT)-and refused to hire him unless it received a new medical certificate. Among other things, the examination revealed that Hurd took Dilantin for an unspecified condition. Hurd's treating neurologist completed a medical clearance form disclosing that Hurd suffers from complex partial epilepsy but could safely operate a commercial motor vehicle. Based on this diagnosis, Cardinal refused to hire Hurd.

         Hurd filed a charge of disability discrimination with the EEOC in 2016 and later filed this two-count action. In count one, Hurd asserted that Cardinal knowingly discriminated against him on the basis of his disability by subjecting him to prohibited medical examinations and refusing to retain or hire him despite his qualifications and jobs available within the company. Count two asserted that even if Hurd did not have an actual disability, Cardinal refused to hire Hurd because of his record of partial epilepsy and its perception that he was disabled by the impairment, even though it knew he possessed the requisite qualifications. Hurd sought a total of $1, 000, 000.00 in damages: $500, 000.00 in compensatory and consequential damages, $200, 000.00 in front pay and benefits (or, in the alternative, an order compelling Cardinal to hire Hurd), and $300, 000.00 in punitive damages.

         Throughout the course of litigation, the parties filed and responded to several motions, the most significant of which were a motion for judgment on the pleadings and cross-motions for summary judgment. They also engaged in discovery culminating in several motions in limine and submitted proposed jury instructions. The court ultimately granted summary judgment to Cardinal on one count and to Hurd on the other. A jury trial was scheduled to resolve the issue of damages, but Hurd agreed to accept a lump-sum payment of $45, 000.00 from Cardinal to settle his claims.

         Hurd now seeks an award of attorney's fees and costs against Cardinal pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 12117(a) and 2000e-5(k) for the period of June 25, 2017, through June 3, 2019.[2] (Dkt. Nos. 92, 102.) Cardinal also filed a motion for attorney's fees and costs against Hurd pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12205 and Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U.S. 412, 421 (1978).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         Under the ADA, “the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney's fee.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 12117(a), 2000e-5(k). The parties agree here that plaintiff is a prevailing party. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983) (explaining that a party is a prevailing party if it “succeed[s] on any significant issue in litigation which achieves some of the benefit [plaintiff] sought in bringing suit”).

         In order to determine the proper amount of a fee award, the court first calculates the lodestar figure by multiplying the number of reasonable hours expended by a reasonable billing rate. McAfee v. Boczar, 738 F.3d 81, 88 (4th Cir. 2013), as amended (Jan. 23, 2014). In doing so, the court may also adjust the figure based on the so-called Johnson factors, first set forth by the Fifth Circuit in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir.1974), and adopted by the Fourth Circuit in Barber v. Kimbrell's Inc., 577 F.2d 216, 226 n.28 (4th Cir. 1978).[3] McAfee, 738 F.3d at 89-90 (explaining the interplay of the lodestar amount and the Johnson factors). "But trial courts need not, and indeed should not, become green-eyeshade accountants. The essential goal in shifting fees (to either party) is to do rough justice, not to achieve auditing perfection." Fox v. Vice, 563 U.S. 826, 838 (2011). Thus, when reviewing a motion for attorney's fees, "courts have broad discretion to modify the lodestar to more accurately reflect the extent of a litigant's success." Lux v. Judd, 868 F.Supp.2d 519, 533 (E.D. Va. 2012).

         After determining the appropriate lodestar amount, the court should subtract hours spent in the litigation of unsuccessful claims "unrelated to successful ones." McAfee, 738 F.3d at 89-90 (quoting Robinson v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, 560 F.3d 235, 243 (4th Cir. 2009)). Then, the court should award some percentage of the remaining amount, depending on the degree of success enjoyed by the prevailing party. Id.; see also Sergeant v. Acol, No. 15-cv-2233, 2018 WL 276431, at *8-9 (D. Md. Jan. 3, 2018).

         B. Hurd's Motion for Fees and Costs

         Hurd seeks an attorney's fee award based on the following hourly rates and time expended on his case:[4]

Timekeeper

Hourly Rate

Hours Billed

Total

Paul G. Beers, Esq. (Member)

$350.00

342.30

$119, 805.00

Emma M. Kozlowski, Esq. (Associate)

$225.00

142.20

$31, 995.00

Christopher E. Collins, Esq. (Associate)

$200.00

19.40

$3, 880.00

Terry G. McConaughy (Legal Assistant)

$125.00

47.60

$5, 950.00

         Attached to his motion are billing records supporting these totals, declarations from the attorneys seeking compensation regarding their experience, their hourly rates, and the time expended on this case, and a declaration from an attorney in the same market and community stating that the above rates are equal to or below fair market value based on the timekeepers' qualifications. (Dkt. Nos. 92-1, 92-5.) Hurd also seeks reimbursement of costs in the amount of $5, 524.64.

         On June 12, 2019, Hurd filed a supplement to his motion for an award of reasonable attorney's fees and costs, seeking the following amounts in compensation for the period of May 1, 2019, through June 3, 2019[5]:

Timekeeper

Hourly Rate

Hours Billed

Total

Paul G. Beers, Esq. (Member)

$350.00

72.30

$25, 305.00

Christopher E. Collins, Esq. (Associate)

$200.00

5.80

$1, 160.00

         Hurd does not specify an amount of costs in his supplement but has increased the total costs requested by $864.30.

         In total, Hurd requests $188, 095.00 in fees and $6, 388.94 in costs and expenses.

         1. Lodestar Figure

         a. Reasonable fee

         Whether an hourly rate is reasonable is generally determined by reference to the prevailing market rates in the relevant legal community for the type of work for which an award is sought. McAfee, 738 F.3d at 91. The relevant community is usually that in which the district court sits. Rum Creek Coal Sales, Inc. v. Caperton, 31 F.3d 169, 179 (4th Cir. 1994). The prevailing rate "may be established through affidavits reciting the fees of counsel with similar qualifications, information concerning fee awards in similar cases, and/or specific evidence of counsel's billing practice.” Freeman v. Potter, No. 7:04cv00276, 2006 WL 2631722, at *4 (W.D. Va. Sept. 13, 2006) (citing Spell v. McDaniel, 824 F.2d 1380, 1402 (4th Cir. 1987)).

         As stated above, Hurd's attorneys submitted declarations swearing that the rates requested in this case reflect their typical hourly rates. Hurd has further supported his motion with a declaration from Terry Grimes, Esq., an employment attorney practicing in the Western District of Virginia, who opined that based on the attorneys' qualifications, the requested rates are equal to or less than the fair market value of their services for a case of this nature and level of difficulty.[6] Additionally, Hurd cites to a number of cases from this district in which partners and associates with similar experience as Mr. Beers and Ms. Kozlowski have been paid $350.00 per hour and $225.00 per hour, respectively, for their work on employment-law cases. See Brown v. Mountainview Cutters, LLC, 222 F.Supp.3d 504 (W.D. Va. 2016); Supinger v. Commonwealth of Va., No. 6:15-cv-00017, 2019 WL 1461071 (W.D. Va. 2019). Similar rates are common in other types of cases as well. See, e.g., Scott v. Clarke, No. 3:12-CV-00036, 2014 WL 1463755, at *6 (W.D. Va. Apr. 15, 2014) (granting fees of $400.00 and $230.00 per hour); Naill v. Lincoln Mort., LLC, No. 3:09CV00039, 2010 WL 2292133 (W.D. Va. June 7, 2010) (applying a rate of $375.00 per hour).

         Cardinal argues that Hurd has failed to meet his burden to establish that the rates requested are reasonable in this market. It asserts that the rates requested for Mr. Beers and Ms. Kozlowski are excessive. In support of its argument, Cardinal notes that its own counsel billed at a rate of only $275.00. It supports this rate by citing to a declaration by Susan C. North, Esq.-its own attorney-which is further supported by John Bredehoft, Esq., another attorney from the Norfolk, Virginia, area.[7] It further cites to Lusk v. Virginia Panel Corp., 96 F.Supp.3d 573 (W.D. Va. 2015), in arguing that more reasonable rates for Mr. Beers and Ms. Kozlowski would be $275.00-300.00 and $150.00, respectively.

         The court disagrees and finds the rates requested to be reasonable. Cardinal relies on declarations of attorneys based in other communities whereas Hurd cites to declarations of local attorneys with more extensive knowledge of billing rates in this community. More importantly, this court has recently awarded fees at the requested rates to attorneys with similar experience and qualifications as Mr. Beers and Ms. Kozlowski.

         Cardinal further argues that the rate of $125.00 per hour for a legal assistant is unsupported by any documentation of Ms. McConaughy's qualifications. However, the rate of $125.00 per hour is supported by the cases cited in both parties' memoranda. Specifically, in both Supinger and Lusk the moving parties requested, and the court applied, rates of $125.00 per hour for paralegal or legal assistant services. See Supinger, 2019 WL 1450530, at *3 n.7 (noting that no party objected to the rate of $125.00 for paralegals); Lusk, 96 F.Supp.3d at 584 n.3 (using the rate of $125.00 to determine the proper award of fees for paralegals). ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.