August 15, 2019

Determining prevailing party damages and attorney's fees awards


Plaintiff filed a §1983 complaint against the City of New York and certain individual police officers [Defendants] for alleged deprivations of his constitutional rights.

Defendants presented Plaintiff with an offer of judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure §68 in the amount of $10,001 and reasonable attorney’s fees, expenses, and costs incurred “to the date of [the] offer.” Plaintiff accepted the offer, but the Defendants were unable to agree upon the sum of attorney’s fees, expenses, and costs to be paid.

Plaintiff filed a motion with the district court for an award of reasonable attorney’s fees, expenses, and costs that included the hours Plaintiff’s solo practitioner attorney spent on clerical tasks and incurred preparing the fee application. The federal district court granted the application but reduced the requested hourly rate because of the simple, “relatively straightforward” nature of the case, and imposed a ten percent across-the-board reduction to the fee award to account for clerical tasks performed by the attorney.

The U.S Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, affirmed the district court’s decision to reduce Plaintiff’s attorney’s reasonable hourly rate in light of the simple nature of this case, as well as the district court’s decision to reduce the hours claimed through an across-the-board reduction to reflect the clerical work performed.

The Circuit Court, however, reduced and vacated the district court’s decision to award Plaintiff's attorney’s fees for the work incurred preparing the fee application because the express terms of the accepted Rule 68 offer of judgment limit the fees recoverable to those incurred “to the date of [the] offer.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/ebab1879-2677-413e-ac0d-a7c11adc7f01/3/doc/17-2823_opn.pdf#xml=http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/ebab1879-2677-413e-ac0d-a7c11adc7f01/3/hilite/

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