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Walton v. Dawson

United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division

January 26, 2015

CODY L. WALTON, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT DAWSON, et al., Defendant(s).

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JEAN C. HAMILTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Cody L. Walton’s Amended Motion for Attorneys’ Fees & Costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 as the Prevailing Party for Claims Pursued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Motion for Attorneys’ Fees and Costs”), filed October 22, 2014. (ECF No. 193). The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this matter on July 5, 2011. (ECF No. 1). Originally named as Defendants were Robert Dawson, Macon County Sheriff, David Moore, Macon County Jail Administrator, and Unknown Macon County Deputy Sheriff (in their official and individual capacities), Alan R. Wyatt, Macon County Presiding Commissioner, Drew Belt and Jon Dwiggins, Macon County Commissioners (in their official capacity only), and Nathaniel Eugene Flennory (in his individual capacity only).

On August 8, 2011, Plaintiff was granted leave to dismiss Unknown Macon County Deputy Sheriff without prejudice. (ECF Nos. 15, 17). Plaintiff survived a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Dawson, Moore, Wyatt, Belt and Dwiggins. (ECF No. 66). He then was granted leave to dismiss Defendants Wyatt, Belt and Dwiggins on August 27, 2012. (ECF Nos. 72, 77).

In a Memorandum and Order entered December 11, 2012, the Court granted Defendants Dawson and Moore’s Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to Plaintiff’s failure to protect claim. (ECF No. 104). The Court further dismissed Plaintiff’s conspiracy claim, and his request for injunctive relief. (Id.). The Court denied Defendants’ motion with respect to Plaintiff’s claim for failure to train and/or supervise, however, leaving it intact against Defendants in both their individual and official capacities. (Id.).

On December 13, 2012, Defendants filed a notice of interlocutory appeal regarding the Court’s denial of qualified immunity on Plaintiff’s claim of failure to train. (ECF No. 105). Plaintiff filed a notice of cross appeal on December 21, 2012, based on a number of alleged trial court errors. (ECF No. 113). The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Plaintiff’s cross appeal on February 13, 2013. (ECF No. 119). On May 20, 2014, the Eighth Circuit reversed this Court in part, granting qualified immunity to Defendant Dawson. (ECF No. 121). The Court declined to grant qualified immunity to Defendant Moore. (Id.).

On October 6, 2014, the parties stipulated to the dismissal of Defendant Flennory. (ECF Nos. 171, 177). The case then proceeded to trial on Plaintiff’s remaining claim of failure to train and/or supervise against Defendant Moore in his official capacity only, on October 7, 8, and 9, 2014. The jury eventually found for Plaintiff, and awarded him sixty thousand dollars in damages. (ECF No. 180).

As stated above, Plaintiff the instant Motion for Attorneys’ Fees and Costs on October 22, 2014. (ECF No. 193). In his motion, Plaintiff requests an award of $923, 900.00 in attorneys’ fees, as follows:

Attorney/Legal Assistant

Hours

x

Rate

= Total

Jeremy D. Hollingshead

322.9

$400

$129, 160.00

John M. Eccher

159.5

$400

$63, 800.00

Stephen S. Wyse

1570.7[1]

$450

$707, 510.00[2]

Jeffrey R. Chapdelaine

20

$500

$12, 000.00[3]

Derek M. Rudman

9

$450

$4, 050.00

Melissa Brockgreitens (Assistant)

48

$100

$4, 800.00

Jessica Rials (Assistant)

25.8

$100

$2, 580.00

(ECF No. 189, P. 13). Plaintiff further seeks $5, 923.00 in costs. (ECF No. 193). Defendant objects to the awarding of attorneys’ fees and costs.

DISCUSSION

I. Attorneys’ Fees

42 U.S.C. § 1988(b) provides in relevant part as follows: “In any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of section[]...1983, ....the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party, ....a reasonable attorney’s fee as part of the costs....” “The starting point for determining a reasonable attorney fee is to multiply the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate.” Copeland v. ABB, Inc., 2006 WL 2356140 at *1 (W.D. Mo. Aug. 15, 2006), citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). “This figure is often referred to as the ‘lodestar.’” Id. (citation omitted). “The party seeking an award of fees should submit evidence supporting the hours worked and rates claimed.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. The district court then may reduce the award when the documentation of hours worked is inadequate, or when it determines that hours were not “reasonably expended.”[4] Id. at 433-34. “Once the lodestar amount has been determined, the Court may consider several other factors[5] to determine whether the fee should be adjusted upward or downward, although many of these factors usually are subsumed within the initial calculation of hours reasonably expended at a reasonable hourly rate.” Buzzanga v. Life Ins. Co. of North America, 2013 WL 784632, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 1, 2013) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

A. Number Of Hours Worked

The fee applicant bears the burden of substantiating the claimed number of hours expended. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. In an effort to meet his burden, Plaintiff has submitted detailed billing records from five attorneys. Defendant challenges Plaintiff’s claimed hours on a number of bases. The Court will address these challenges in turn.

1. Attorney Jeffrey R. Chapdelaine

Plaintiff requests fees for attorney Jeffrey R. Chapdelaine in the amount of $12, 000.00. (ECF No. 193-1). Mr. Chapdelaine explained his role in this case as follows: “In addition to handling my own cases, I supervisor (sic) lawyers and consult with lawyers on cases. Specifically, in this case my role on the litigation team was to prepare the plaintiff, who suffered trauma as a result of the assault, to testify. Our primary concern was protecting the ...


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