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David v. Dist. of Columbia

May 24, 2007

DARLENE DAVID, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Deborah A. Robinson United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff's [Darlene David's] Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (Document No. 82) ("Plaintiff's Motion") is pending for determination by the undersigned.*fn1 Upon consideration of the motion, the memoranda in support thereof and in opposition thereto, and the relevant portions of the record herein, Plaintiff's motion will be granted in part, and Defendant Davis will be ordered to pay Plaintiff Darlene David her costs, including reasonable attorney's fees, in accordance with the findings set forth herein.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, in this action, sought damages for her injuries and those of her minor daughter arising from an assault against her while in a treatment room with her daughter at Children's National Medical Center ("CNMC"). Plaintiff named as defendants the District of Columbia; Andre Davis, the officer of the Metropolitan Police Department who, Plaintiff alleged, assaulted her (and who was sued in both his individual and official capacities); and CNMC (some of whose employees, Plaintiff alleged, also participated in the assault). Complaint, ¶¶5-9, 14-16. Of the five counts of the Complaint, four alleged common law torts by all of the defendants. In only one count was a violation of Section 1983 alleged: "Deprivation of Civil Rights, 42 U.S.C. § 1983[,]" solely as to the officer. Id., ¶¶18-34.

The claims of Plaintiff David and her daughter were tried to a jury. The jury found in favor of Plaintiff David on her claims against Defendant District of Columbia, and awarded her $2,000 in compensatory damages. The jury found in favor of Plaintiff David on her claims against Defendant Davis, and awarded her one dollar in compensatory damages and one dollar in punitive damages. Finally, the jury found in favor of Plaintiff David on her claims against CNMC, and awarded her $30,000 in damages. The trial court entered judgments on the verdicts. Judgment on the Verdict (Document Nos. 52, 53, 54). The trial court denied the motion for judgment as a matter of law filed by Defendants District of Columbia and Davis. Memorandum Opinion (Document No. 79) at 2, 13-14.*fn2

Plaintiff David moves for an award of attorneys' fees and costs "in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 54, and as provided by 42 U.S.C. § 1988, . . . on the grounds that she was the prevailing party in the above entitled litigation [.]" Plaintiff's Motion at 1 (emphasis supplied). Plaintiff David states that "a jury concluded that defendants Children's National Medical Center, the District of Columbia and Andre Davis were liable for the false arrest and violation of the constitutional rights of plaintiff David[,] [and] [a]ccordingly, . . . award[ed] the plaintiff David $32,002 in damages." Id.*fn3 Plaintiff requests an award of attorneys' fees in the amount of $114,435.75, and "costs and expenses" in the amount of $2,557.63. Id.

Defendant CNMC opposes Plaintiff's motion "to the extent the motion purports to assert a claim for an award of attorney's fees and costs against this defendant[,] . . . [as] [n]o [Section 1983] claims were asserted or could [have been] asserted against CNMC." Opposition of Defendant Children's National Medical Center to Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs (Document No. 83) at 1.*fn4

Defendants District of Columbia and Davis submit that Plaintiff David can recover fees and costs only with respect to her Section 1983 claim against Defendant Davis. Defendants' District of Columbia and Andre Davis' Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees ("District's Opposition") (Document No. 88) at 2.*fn5 These defendants submit that while Plaintiff David prevailed with respect to her Section 1983 claim against Defendant Davis, the award of only nominal damages warrants the conclusion that she "achieved very limited success[,]" and that "it would be unreasonable in this case for the plaintiff's counsel to recover any attorney's fees." Id. at 4. Alternatively, Defendants District of Columbia and Davis submit that the fee request of $114,435.75 should be substantially reduced "in light of the limited success [Plaintiff] achieved in this case." Id. at 5.*fn6 Lastly, these defendants submit that should the court determine that an award of fees and costs is appropriate, expenditures unrelated to Plaintiff David's claim against Defendant Davis should be excluded. Id. at 8-17.

Plaintiff David, in her reply, submits that "[b]y obtaining a verdict of any kind in the subject case, plaintiff's success was extraordinary." Plaintiff's Reply to Defendants' Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Opposition to Plaintiff's Request for Attorney's Fees (Document No. 90) ("Plaintiff's Reply") at 2.*fn7 Plaintiff David further submits that she is entitled to an award of fees and costs, and that there is no basis for any substantial reduction of the amount requested. Id. at 5-12.

DISCUSSION

Attorney's Fees

Section 1988(b) of Title 42 provides, in pertinent part, that

[i]n any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of section[] . . . 1983 . . . of this title, . . . the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party, other than the United States, a ...


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