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Watson v. E.S. Sutton

August 3, 2007

ANNIE WATSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
E.S. SUTTON, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kimba M. Wood, U.S.D.J.

ORDER

I. Overview

Plaintiff Annie Watson ("Watson") filed an employment discrimination action against E.S. Sutton, Inc. ("ESS") in 2002. In 2004, after a jury trial, the jury rendered a verdict that ESS had retaliated against Watson in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e--3(a) ("Title VII"), New York Executive Law § 296, and the New York City Administrative Code, § 8--502. See Watson v. Sutton, 02 Civ. 2739 (KMW) (THK), 2005 WL 2170659, at *1, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31578, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 6, 2005). The jury awarded Watson $500,000 in emotional distress damages; $884,000 in back-pay and benefits; $550,000 in front-pay and benefits; and $2.5 million in punitive damages, for a total award of $4,434,000.*fn1 The Court denied ESS' subsequent motion for a new trial as to liability, but vacated the award as to punitive and emotional damages. Watson, 2005 WL 2170659, at *23, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31578, at *70. Watson then accepted the Court's remittitur of punitive and emotional damages, which resulted in a final award of $2,271,000. On November 29, 2005, the Court issued an Amended Judgment for Watson in the amount of $2,261,000.*fn2

Watson thereafter moved for attorneys' fees, which motion the Court referred to Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz. On August 11, 2006, Magistrate Judge Katz issued a Report and Recommendation (the "R&R") recommending that Watson be awarded costs and attorneys' fees in the amount of $255,944.17.*fn3 On August 24, 2006, this Court stayed further proceedings with respect to the R&R pending appeal of the underlying judgment. On November 27, 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a summary order affirming the Amended Judgment in its entirety. Watson v. E.S. Sutton, No. 05-5388-cv, 2006 WL 3421809, at *1--2, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 29518, at *1--2 (2d Cir. Nov. 27, 2006). This Court lifted the stay of this action on December 8, 2006. Plaintiff thereafter requested an additional $43,247.50 in supplemental legal fees to cover the costs incurred on appeal.

On December 19, 2006, ESS filed timely objections to the R&R and opposed Watson's supplemental request for fees. On January 3, 2007, Watson filed an affirmation in opposition to ESS's positions. The Court adopts the R&R, with the modifications set forth below, and awards Watson a total of $286,288.68 as reimbursement for attorneys' fees and costs.

I. Background

The R&R, familiarity with which is assumed, thoroughly recounts the background of this case; the Court repeats the facts here only as necessary.

A number of different lawyers represented Plaintiff during these proceedings. From March 2000 through March 2002, Outten & Golden ("O&G") represented Plaintiff; in November 2000, O&G filed a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"); Plaintiff received a favorable "Probable Cause" finding from the EEOC. In March 2002, Plaintiff retained Gary Ireland ("Ireland"). On April 9, 2002, Ireland filed the Complaint in this action; he represented Plaintiff until September 2003. Saul L. Glass ("Glass") assisted Ireland with his representation of Plaintiff. Finally, Plaintiff retained Barry, McTiernan & Moore ("BMM") in May 2003; BMM represented Plaintiff through pre-trial proceedings, a nine-day trial, post-trial motions, and the appeal.

II. Discussion

A. Legal Standards; O&G's Costs and Fees

Because the parties do not formally object to the R&R's discussion of applicable law or to the R&R's recommendation as to O&G, the Court reviews those portions only for clear error. "'If no objections are filed, reviewing courts should review a R&R and recommendation for clear error.'" Edwards v. Fischer, 414 F. Supp. 2d 342, 346-47 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (quoting Vega v. Artuz, No. 97 Civ. 3775, 2002 WL 31174466, at *1, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18270, *3 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2002)).

The Court has reviewed the R&R, and finds its exposition of the legal standards governing this motion and its recommendation as to O&G to be well-reasoned and free of any "clear error on the face of the record." Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b) advisory committee's note; see also Nelson v. Smith, 618 F. Supp. 1186, 1189 (S.D.N.Y. 1985). The Court therefore adopts those portions of the R&R and concludes that Watson is entitled to $14,579.14 as reimbursement for O&G attorneys' fees and costs.

B. Application of Legal Standards to Watson's Motion for Attorneys' Fees

ESS has, however, filed specific objections to the R&R's application of the legal standards to Watson's motion for attorneys' fees for BMM, Ireland, and Glass. Because these objections are specific, the Court has reviewed the R&R's recommendations ...


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