Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

VanValkenburg v. Oregon Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

June 9, 2017

DAVID D. VANVALKENBURG, Plaintiff,
v.
OREGON DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL W. MOSMAN Chief United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff David VanValkenburg brought this suit against the Oregon Department of Corrections (“ODOC”), alleging violations of federal and state anti-discrimination laws while he was in custody. Mr. VanValkenburg's state-law claim was tried by a jury, beginning on November 1, 2016. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Mr. VanValkenburg, awarding him $400, 000 in noneconomic damages [183]. On February 8, 2017, I DENIED Defendant's Motions for Judgment as a Matter of Law, New Trial, and Remittitur [210]. Mr. VanValkenburg now moves for attorney fees and costs [215].

         BACKGROUND

         Mr. VanValkenburg is a hearing-impaired individual who was housed at multiple prisons run by ODOC from 2000 to 2014. In 2014, he brought this case based on allegations that ODOC violated state and federal anti-discrimination laws when it failed to provide him with accommodations for his hearing disability that would allow him to meaningfully participate in prison programs and services provided to inmates. After a three-day trial in November, 2016, the jury found in favor of Mr. VanValkenburg and awarded him $400, 000 in noneconomic damages. Mr. VanValkenburg has now moved to recover his attorney fees, costs, and litigation expenses as the prevailing party on his state-law claim.[1]

         DISCUSSION

         Mr. VanValkenburg is seeking to recover a total of $911, 062.21 in attorney fees, costs, and litigation expenses as the prevailing party on his state-law disability discrimination claim. That amount includes a fee multiplier to compensate Mr. VanValkenburg's attorneys for their performance in this case and the risk they undertook in representing Mr. VanValkenburg on a contingency fee basis. Mr. VanValkenburg also seeks additional attorney fees to cover the cost of litigating his fee award.

         ODOC objects to Mr. VanValkenburg's motion on several grounds. First, ODOC argues that I should decline to award any fees in this case because (1) doing so is discretionary and (2) Mr. VanValkenburg was not the prevailing party on any of his claims. Alternatively, ODOC suggests that I should implement “an across-the-board percentage cut” to reflect Mr. VanValkenburg's “partial success” on the claims overall. In addition, ODOC objects to the award of any fee multiplier in this case, as well as a prevailing party fee that Mr. VanValkenburg seeks by statute. Finally, ODOC objects to some of the costs and litigation expenses that Mr. VanValkenburg seeks to recover.

         As explained below, I find that Mr. VanValkenburg is the prevailing party on his state-law disability discrimination claim. As such, he is entitled to recover his attorney fees, costs, and litigation expenses. I also award his requested attorney fees for the cost of litigating this attorney fee motion. Additionally, I agree a fee multiplier is appropriate in this case based on the risk involved in this case and the performance of Mr. VanValkenburg's attorneys. That said, I find the requested fee multiplier to be excessive and thus, I adopt a smaller multiplier. Finally, some of the litigation expenses are not reimbursable under state law, resuling in a reduction to Mr. VanValkenburg's requested expense award. In total, I award Mr. VanValkenburg $683, 873.13 in attorney fees, $18, 155.19 in costs, and $3, 924.79 in litigation expenses.

         I. Attorney Fee Award

         Mr. VanValkenburg is seeking to recover attorney fees for over 1300 hours that his attorneys claim they spent on this case. Specifically, Mr. VanValkenburg seeks to recover (1) attorney fees based on the number of hours spent on the case, (2) extra attorney fees pursuant to a discretionary fee multiplier, and (3) attorney fees for the time spent litigating this motion for attorney fees. For the reasons discussed below, I find that Mr. VanValkenburg is entitled to attorney fees and that the standard lodestar calculation of those fees based on his attorneys' hourly rate and the number of hours spent litigating this case is the proper method for calculating those fees. I also find that a fee multiplier is appropriate in this case. Finally, I grant Mr. VanValkenburg's request to recover attorney fees for the time spent litigating this attorney fee memo. In total, Mr. VanValkenbug is entitled to recover $683, 873.13 in attorney fees.

         A. Calculation of Attorney Fees

         Mr. VanValkenburg argues that he is entitled to recover reasonable attorney fees because he is the prevailing party in this case. Specifically, he argues that he is entitled to recover attorney fees based on his attorneys' reasonable billing rate and the hours his attorneys spent litigating his state-law antidiscrimination claim. ODOC argues that Mr. VanValkenburg is not entitled to any attorney fees because he is not the prevailing party on any of his claims. And, in any event, ODOC argues that the award should be reduced to reflect what it argues was a narrow victory.

         For the following reasons, I have determined that an award of attorney fees to Mr.

         VanValkenburg is mandatory under Oregon statutory law. Because the state and federal claims in this case have common issues of law and fact, Mr. VanValkenburg's attorneys' time was reasonably spent litigating both claims, and they are not required to apportion their time by claim. Accordingly, I do not reduce the hours spent on the case to reflect Mr. VanValkenburg's loss on the federal claim, except to the extent that Mr. VanValkenburg is not entitled to attorney fees for the time spent on litigating whether he exhausted his administrative remedies under his federal claim. I also find the hourly rates requested by Mr. VanValkenburg's attorneys to be reasonable. In sum, Mr. VanValkenburg is entitled to an attorney fee award of 385, 217.50 based on calculations under the lodestar method.[2]

         1. An Attorney Fee Award is Mandatory Because Mr. VanValkenburg is the Prevailing Party on the State-Law Claim

         Oregon law governs whether an attorney fee is available in a case that is based on state law. Northon v. Rule, 637 F.3d 937, 938 (9th Cir. 2011) (“State laws awarding attorneys' fees are generally considered to be substantive laws under the Erie doctrine . . .”). In Oregon, severeal statutes govern the award of attorney fees. Specifically, Oregon Revised Statute § 20.107 states:

(1) In any civil judicial proceeding . . . based on a claim of unlawful discrimination, the court shall award to the prevailing plaintiff attorney and expert witness fees reasonably and necessarily incurred in connection with the discrimination claim, at the trial court . . .
(2) In making an award under this section, the court shall calculate attorney and expert witness fees on the basis of a reasonable hourly rate at the time the award is made, multiplied by the amount of time actually and reasonably spent in connection with the discrimination claim.

         In addition, Oregon Revised Statute § 659A.885(1) states: “[i]n any action under this subsection, the court may allow the prevailing party costs and reasonable attorney fees at trial and on appeal.” In fact, “Oregon courts have construed [§ 659A.885(1)] as mandatory and highly favorable to plaintiffs, holding that prevailing plaintiffs are entitled to recover their attorney fees.” Hamlin v. Hampton Lumber Mills, Inc., 205 P.3d 70 (Or. App. 2009). Accordingly, given the text of Oregon Revised Statute 20.107, explaining that I shall award fees to the prevailing plaintiff's attorney, and Hamlin, making such an award mandatory under Oregon Revised Statute § 659A.885(1), I am required to award attorney fees to Mr. VanValkenburg so long as he was the prevailing plaintiff.

         To determine whether Mr. VanValkenburg was the prevailing party in this case, I again look to Oregon law. Oregon Revised Statute § 20.077 defines the prevailing party “[f]or the purposes of making an award of attorney fees on a claim, ” as “the party who receives a favorable judgment . . . on the claim.” Or. Rev. Stat. § 20.077(2). The text of the statute makes clear that I must look at each claim to determine who the prevailing party was on that claim. Eagles Five, LLC. v. Lawton, 280 P.3d 1017, 1026 (Or. App. 2012)

         ODOC argues that Mr. VanValkenburg was not the prevailing party in this case because his federal claim was dismissed and on his state-law claim was limited to a smaller time period than he initially sought in his Complaint. Mr. VanValkenburg concedes that he was not the prevailing party on his Section 1983 claim alleging violations of the ADA. But he argues he was the prevailing party on his state-law claim because the jury returned a verdict in his favor on that claim and awarded him $400, 000 in damages.

         I agree that Mr. VanValkenburg was the prevailing party on his state-law claim. ODOC does not cite any legal authority to support its proposition that Mr. VanValkenburg was not the prevailing party on the state-law claim simply because he did not recover all of the relief he sought. In fact, the text of the statute only calls for “a favorable judgment” on the claim; it does not require all of the relief sought. See Or. Rev. Stat. § 20.077(2); see also Eagles Five, 280 P.3d at 1026 (explaining that the “prevailing party” is the one that received a “favorable judgment” and that “it does not necessarily follow that, merely because a party does not obtain all the relief sought, a party is not a prevailing party” (citation omitted)). Accordingly, because Mr. VanValkenburg received a favorable judgment on his state-law claim, he is entitled to recover attorney fees for prevailing on that claim.

         2. Calculating the Attorney Fee Award

         Mr. VanValkenburg seeks to recover for 528.50 hours spent on the case by Mr. Ellis at a rate of $325.00 per hour; 683.80 hours spent on the case by Ms. Payne[3], at a rate of $300 per hour; and 88.8 hours spent on the case by a paralegal and a law clerk at a rate of $175.00 per hour. In total, Mr. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.