United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MARIA C. CHILDRESS, a/k/a Tina Childress, et al., Plaintiffs,
FOX ASSOCIATES, LLC, d/b/a Fabulous Fox Theatre, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Maria C. “Tina” Childress and Mary Stodden are
deaf individuals who brought this action claiming that
defendant Fox Theatre violated Title III of the Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA) by providing services,
privileges, advantages, and accommodations to deaf Fox
patrons that were not equal to those afforded hearing
patrons, and thus that they were treated differently from
hearing patrons, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§
12182(b)(1)(A)(ii) and 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii). I granted summary
judgment to plaintiffs in April 2018. Plaintiffs now move for
an award of attorney's fees, expenses, and costs under 42
U.S.C. § 12205. I will grant their request.
“the bedrock principle known as the American Rule,
” each litigant pays its own attorney's fees unless
a statute or contract provides otherwise. Baker Botts
L.L.P. v. ASARCO LLC, 135 S.Ct. 2158, 2164 (2015)
(internal citation and quotation marks omitted). Parties who
prevail on an ADA claim are allowed reasonable attorney's
fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. § 12205 at the discretion
of the court. Shrader v. OMC Aluminum Boat Grp.,
Inc., 128 F.3d 1218, 1220 (8th Cir. 1997). A reasonable
attorney's fee includes litigation expenses. 42 U.S.C.
§ 12205. There is no dispute that plaintiffs prevailed
on their claims under the ADA and are thus entitled to
reasonable fees and costs.
determine the amount of a reasonable attorney's fee, I
employ the “lodestar” method where the starting
point “is the number of hours reasonably expended on
the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.”
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983);
Quigley v. Winter, 598 F.3d 938, 956-57 (8th Cir.
2010). Once I determine that amount, I consider a number of
other factors to determine whether to adjust the fee upward
or downward. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434; see
also City of Riverside v. Riveria, 477 U.S. 561, 568 n.
attorney, John Frazier Waldo, Jr., expended 223.3
hours in this action and seeks fees at a rate of
$450 per hour. He was the only attorney who worked on
plaintiffs' case. With the lodestar calculations,
Waldo's requested fee award would total $100, 485. Fox
objects to the hourly rate and the time expended, and argues
that, regardless, the amount of the award should be reduced
given plaintiffs' limited recovery.
is a sole practitioner with his office in Houston, Texas. He
has over thirty years' litigation experience, focusing
his practice during the last ten years exclusively on access
rights for people who are deaf or hearing impaired. He does
not charge fees to his clients before matters go to court,
and only then seeks fees under the ADA and/or appropriate
state laws. He does not have a standard billing rate for
clients, and seeks fees at a rate he deems appropriate for
the litigation forum. While Waldo provides substantial
authority showing that $450 is a reasonable hourly rate in
today's St. Louis market for an attorney of his
experience, expertise, and specialization in the particular
area of law that was litigated in this matter, Fox cites only
the hourly rate for its own counsel to argue against
Waldo's proffered rate. Fox's counsel, however, while
well-respected and entirely capable in their practice, have
less years' experience and a broader base of practice,
focusing on labor and employment law.
Waldo's proffered rate of $450 per hour to be reasonable
for the work performed.
time record submitted with his motion for fees shows that he
worked 216.7 hours from May 10, 2016, through May 2, 2018.
The time record submitted with his reply brief shows an
additional 6.6 hours of work expended after filing the
original motion. Fox challenges the reasonableness of the
hours claimed in the first time record, specifically arguing
that the lack of contemporaneous logging of some hours and
the administrative nature of certain tasks warrants a
reduction in the requested fees. Fox also appears to argue
that the time Waldo expended is excessive per se
given that the fees incurred by its own counsel are
substantially less. I disagree.
contemporaneous time records are not required to support a
motion for attorney's fees in the Eighth Circuit as long
as reconstructed records satisfactorily document the time.
Kline v. City of Kansas City, Mo., Fire Dep't,
245 F.3d 707, 708 (8th Cir. 2001). Waldo declares that he
reconstructed some entries for communications with clients
and opposing counsel that took only a fraction of an hour,
basing the recorded time on email logs. Waldo avers that this
method, which was limited to only very brief communications,
was more efficient and facilitated the exercise of billing
judgment. I have carefully reviewed Waldo's time records
and find the entries to satisfactorily document the time
Waldo expended in this action, including those entries that
document brief communication with clients and counsel. I will
not reduce Waldo's fee award in these circumstances.
respect to the administrative nature of some tasks, Fox cites
as non-exhaustive examples Waldo's receiving and filing
of documents, confirming meetings, and transmitting records.
Hours billed for secretarial or clerical tasks are not
compensable. Ladd v. Pickering, 783 F.Supp.2d 1079,
1094 (E.D. Mo. 2011). Although Waldo declares that he did not
bill for such work, I find that some of the examples cited by
Fox fall within the parameters of clerical or secretarial
work. From those entries cited by Fox - and specifically
those dated May 17, July 6, and September 22, 2016; February
8 and ...