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Ganci v. U.S. Limousine Service Ltd.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

April 2, 2015


Plaintiff is represented by David Erlich and Debra Wabnik of Stagg, Terenzi, Confusione & Wabnik, Garden City, NY.

Defendants are represented by Robert Pike and Laurence Cohen of Pike & Pike, P.C., Bellmore, NY.


JOSEPH F. BIANCO, District Judge.

Plaintiff Geralyn Ganci ("plaintiff') brought this action against U.S. Limousine Service Ltd. ("U.S. Limousine") and Raymond Townsend (collectively, "defendants"), asserting claims of employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., in addition to claims under New York law. At the time the initial complaint was filed, plaintiff was represented by Ronald Lenowitz, a solo practitioner. In April 2014, Mr. Lenowitz was replaced as counsel by the law firm of Stagg, Terenzi, Confusione & Wabnik, who have represented plaintiff to the present day.

Following the change in counsel, the case proceeded to trial. At the conclusion of a six day trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. Now before the Court is plaintiffs motion for her attorneys' fees and costs. For the reasons set forth below, the Court awards $162, 578.50 in attorneys' fees and $2, 768.16 in costs for the work performed by Stagg, Terenzi, Confusione & Wabnik, and $4, 900.00 in fees for the work performed by Mr. Lenowitz. The Court also awards Mr. Lenowitz $400.00 in costs.


A. Attorneys' Fees

Plaintiff has submitted two applications for attorneys' fees: one from Mr. Lenowitz, and one from Stagg, Terenzi, Confusione & Wabnik. "The general rule in our legal system is that each party must pay its own attorney's fees and expenses." Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel. Winn, 559 U.S. 542, 550 (2010). However, Congress has authorized the award of "a reasonable attorney's fee" to the "prevailing party" in actions under Title VII. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k); Buckhannon Bd. & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Dep't. of Health & Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598, 603 n.4 (2001). There is no dispute here that plaintiff is the prevailing party, and accordingly an award of counsel fees is merited.

Generally, to determine a reasonable attorney's fee, a court must calculate a "lodestar figure, " which is determined by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended on a case by a reasonable hourly rate. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983); see also Luciano v. Olsten Corp., 109 F.3d 111, 115 (2d Cir. 1997). "Both [the Second Circuit] and the Supreme Court have held that the lodestar... creates a presumptively reasonable fee.'" Millea v. Metro-N. R.R. Co., 658 F.3d 154, 166 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Assoc. v. Cnty. of Albany, 522 F.3d 182, 183 (2d Cir. 2008); citing Perdue, 559 U.S. 542). "[T]he lodestar figure includes most, if not all, of the relevant factors constituting a reasonable' attorney's fee'.." Perdue, 559 U.S. at 553 (quoting Pennsylvania v. Del. Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546, 565-66 (1986)). Thus, the Supreme Court has recognized that "the lodestar method produces an award that roughly approximates the fee that the prevailing attorney would have received if he or she had been representing a paying client who was billed by the hour in a comparable case." Id. at 551 (emphasis in original).

Reasonable Hourly Rate

"The reasonable hourly rate is the rate a paying client would be willing to pay." Arbor Hill, 522 F.3d at 190. In Arbor Hill, the Second Circuit instructed district courts to consider the factors set forth in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir. 1974), abrogated on other grounds by Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87, 92-93 (1989). See Arbor Hill, 522 F.3d at 190.

The twelve Johnson factors are: (1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions; (3) the level of skill required to perform the legal service properly; (4) the preclusion of employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5) the attorney's customary hourly rate; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) the time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved in the case and the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorneys; (10) the "undesirability" of the case; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar cases.

Id. at 186 n.3 (quoting Johnson, 488 F.2d at 717-19). Finally, a district court should also consider "that a reasonable, paying client wishes to spend the minimum necessary to litigate the case effectively, " and "that such an individual might be able to negotiate with his or her attorneys, using their desire to obtain the reputational benefits that might accrue from being associated with the case." Id. at 190. "The burden rests with the prevailing party to justify the reasonableness of the requested rate, " and plaintiff's attorney "should establish his hourly rate ...

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