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Velazquez v. Courtyard By Marriott

United States District Court, D. Oregon

July 11, 2018

ANGELINA VELAZQUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT, Defendant.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          STACIE F. BECKERMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Defendant Courtyard by Marriott (“Courtyard”) filed a Motion for Attorney's Fees (ECF No. 49), and a Bill of Costs (ECF No. 51). In response to the Court's request for additional information, Courtyard filed a Supplemental Motion for Attorney's Fees (ECF No. 58), requesting an award of attorney's fees in the amount of $15, 155.00, as well as $310.05 in costs. For the reasons set forth below, the district judge should grant the Supplemental Motion for Attorney's Fees and approve the Bill of Costs, and award Courtyard its attorney's fees in the amount of $15, 155.00, and costs in the amount of $310.05, for a total award of $15, 465.05.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Angelina Velazquez (“Velazquez”), filed a complaint against Courtyard and others on July 15, 2016, as a self-represented litigant. Soon thereafter, Velazquez retained counsel. Her counsel filed a first amended complaint and a corrected first amended complaint. (ECF No. 10.) In the operative complaint, Velazquez alleged several federal and state employment-related disability and retaliation claims relating to her exposure to chemicals while working as a housekeeper at Courtyard. (Id.)

         In June 2017, Velazquez's counsel withdrew from the case, noting a disagreement with Velazquez on “certain issues involving fundamental issues involved with moving her legal case forward.” (Unopposed Mot. to Withdraw at 1.) The Court attempted to appoint pro bono counsel for Velazquez, but the selected attorney terminated the appointment. (Pro Bono App't Resp. Form at 1.)

         In December 2017, Courtyard filed a motion to dismiss Velazquez's complaint (or in the alternative, for summary judgment), on the ground that Velazquez entered into a settlement agreement with Marriott in 2008, releasing any claims, both known and unknown, against Courtyard arising out of her employment. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 2.) In the motion, Courtyard's counsel noted that she had spoken with both of Velazquez's former attorneys, as well as directly with Velazquez, regarding the effect of the prior settlement agreement. (Id.) Courtyard's counsel attempted to convince Velazquez to withdraw her complaint, and warned her that if she continued to pursue this litigation, Courtyard would seek reimbursement of its attorney's fees pursuant to the terms of the settlement agreement. (Id.)

         The prior settlement agreement provides that “[i]n the event [Velazquez] voluntarily or knowingly institutes . . . any action relating to her employment or separation with Marriott [defined to include its subsidiaries, such as Courtyard], her claim shall be dismissed . . . immediately upon presentation of this Agreement, and she shall reimburse Marriott for all legal fees and expenses incurred in defending such claims . . . and in obtaining the dismissal thereof.” (Settlement Agmt. ¶ 6, Aff. of Tracy L. Reynolds, Ex. A.) The settlement agreement further provides that if any party prevails in a legal action resulting from any breach of the settlement agreement, the prevailing party shall be entitled to recover its costs and expenses, including reasonable attorney's fees. (Id. ¶ 9.)

         This Court again attempted to appoint pro bono counsel to represent Velazquez, but the newly-appointed counsel also requested termination. (Pro Bono App't Resp. Form at 1.)

         Velazquez filed a response to Courtyard's motion, explaining her understanding that the attorney who represented her in the prior litigation against Courtyard told her that the settlement agreement related only to her termination of employment, not the injuries she suffered from the chemical exposure. (Resp. at 1-2.) Courtyard filed a reply, noting that Velazquez acknowledged in her response that the prior litigation arose out of her employment with Courtyard, that she entered into the settlement agreement, and that she was represented by counsel at the time. (Reply at 2.)

         This Court entered its Findings and Recommendation on March 9, 2018, finding that Velazquez entered into a settlement agreement with Courtyard in 2008, the settlement agreement released Courtyard from all claims arising out of Velazquez's employment at Courtyard, and Velazquez's current claims arise out of her employment at Courtyard, and therefore recommending that the district judge grant Courtyard's motion for summary judgment. (F&R at 2-5.) On April 13, 2018, the district judge adopted the Findings and Recommendation (Order at 1-2), and entered judgment. Velazquez filed a Notice of Appeal.

         On April 27, 2018, Courtyard filed a motion for attorney's fees and a bill of costs, and at the Court's request, filed a supplemental motion for attorney's fees with a supporting declaration on June 15, 2018. (ECF No. 58.) Velazquez responded with a letter to the Court, noting that she has not been employed since 2007 due to her injuries, and that she owes a large sum of money due to personal loans and credit card debt. (Pl.'s Resp. at 1.) Velazquez further stated that she is unable to pay any money relating to these proceedings, and that Courtyard should be responsible for any money owed because she suffered injuries while working at Courtyard. (Id.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. Attorney's Fees

         A. ...


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