Attorneys’ Fees Awarded In Consumers Energy Discrimination Case
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan recently awarded over $700,000 in attorneys' fees and expenses to a successful plaintiff in a recent high-profile sexual discrimination case.
Waldo v. Consumers Energy (No. 1:06-cv-768) involved a female utility worker's claim for sexual-harassment, hostile work environment against her employer, Consumers Energy. The case was tried twice to verdict in front of West Michigan juries, and at the conclusion of the second trial, a jury awarded the plaintiff $7.9 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The judgment was later remitted to the statutory damages cap of $300,000.
The Court's recent opinion dealt with plaintiff's request for statutory attorneys' fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Applying the lodestar method and the Johnson factors, the Court awarded Plaintiff's request nearly in full. It found that the number of hours spent on the case—over 1900 hours of attorney time—was not unreasonable given the case's complexity and five-year duration. The Court also held that the hourly rates charged were reasonable for attorneys with comparable skill and experience in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area: $400 per hour for lead counsel; $200 per hour for an associate attorney; $150 per hour for law clerks; and $100 per hour for paralegals.
Additionally, the Court declined defendant's invitation to reduce the fee award on the basis of her unsuccessful gender discrimination and retaliation claims. Because those claims involved a common core of facts with the successful hostile work environment claim and were based on related legal theories, the Court found the proposed reduction "unwarranted."