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Franchina v. City of Providence

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

November 7, 2016

LORI FRANCHINA, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF PROVIDENCE, Defendant.

          ORDER

          JOHN J. MCCONNELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         After receiving a successful jury verdict totaling $806, 000[1] in this Title VII matter, Plaintiff Lori Franchina's attorneys filed a Motion to Award Attorney's Fees and Costs. ECF No. 102. They request a total of $233, 643.50 in fees and $7, 838.58 in costs. Defendant City of Providence objects to portions of the request and asks the Court award no more than $108, 576 in attorney's fees and $4, 207.98 in costs. ECF No. 109.

         As an initial matter, having presided over this litigation for more than four years, this Court finds that the attorneys involved on both sides litigated a difficult and extremely complex case both legally and factually and did so with the highest level of professionalism, skill, and competence. They all earned the Court's admiration. After reviewing Ms. Franchina's motion and accompanying affidavits and the City's objections, her motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         A prevailing plaintiff is entitled to the recovery of attorney's fees under Title VII. Fontanillas-Lopez v. Morell Bauza Cartagena & Dapena, LLC., 832 F.3d 50, 59 (1st Cir. 2016) ("Title VII, . . .expressly provid[es] that "[i]n any action or proceeding under [Title VII] the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party ... a reasonable attorney's fee (including expert fees) as part of the costs." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k)). Both parties agree that the Court should use the Lodestar method for calculating the fees and that Ms. Franchina is a prevailing party. The Court will deal with the City's objections seriatim:

         1. Hours Productively Expended:

         a. Hours spent drafting the Complaint: The Court finds that spending a combined six hours in drafting the complaint was not excessive, as the pleading in this case was complicated.

         b. Hours spent responding to the 12(b)(6) motions: The fact that Ms. Franchina did not prevail on any particular motion is not a basis for eliminating the hours spent if she otherwise prevails at trial. None of the matters presented or opposed by any party were frivolous or improperly litigated. The matters were "sufficiently interconnected with the causes of action upon which [she] prevailed" such that the Court finds these hours are appropriately reimbursed. Lipsett v. Blanco, 975 F.2d 934, 940 (1st Cir. 1992).

         c. Hours spent on discovery: The Court sees no reason, and there is no evidence before it, to support eliminating the hours Ms. Franchina's attorneys spent on discovery matters. Ms. Franchina has properly sustained her evidentiary burden by demonstrating to the Court that these hours were reasonable, d. Hours spent on unsuccessful Motion to Reconsider: The fact that Ms. Franchina did not prevail on a particular motion is not a basis for eliminating the hours spent if she otherwise prevails at trial. The matters were "sufficiently interconnected with the causes of action upon which [she] prevailed" such that the Court finds these hours are appropriately reimbursed. Id.

         e. Hours spent on Motions in Limine: The Court does not find that the hours Ms. Franchina's attorneys spent to be duplicative. Moreover, the time entries and verifications of hours were sufficient to support the claim for these fees.

         f. Hours spent on Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law: The City's post-trial motions were extensive, complicated, and well pled. It is reasonable for Ms. Franchina's attorneys to have spent 47 hours preparing their successful response to the motions.

         g. Attorney Braga's duplicative time: The Court sees no reason, and there is no evidence before it, to support the City's contention that these hours were duplicative.

         h. Other miscellaneous issues: The City presents no basis for the exclusion of these hours.

         2. Reasonable Hourly Rates:

         The City objects to Ms. Franchina's attorneys' hourly rates! to wit, $350 for John T. Martin (after July 1, 2014 when he changed firms) and $250 before that date; $300 for Benjamin H. Duggan; and $225 for Kevin P. Braga. The City claims that it is inappropriate to use out-of-state rates, [2] that the rates are higher than local Rhode ...


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