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CITYSIDE ARCHIVES v. NEW YORK CITY HEALTH AND HOSPITAL

March 3, 1999

CITYSIDE ARCHIVES, LTD.
v.
NEW YORK CITY HEALTH AND HOSPITAL CORPORATION, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Politan, District Judge.

  LETTER OPINION

ORIGINAL ON FILE WITH CLERK OF THE COURT

This matter comes before the Court on three separate motions, namely: (1) Defendant New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation's Motion to Amend the Judgment entered on August 18, 1998 by this Court; (2) counsel of record for plaintiff Cityside Archives, Ltd.'s Motion for Attorney's Fees; and (3) counsel of record for plaintiff Cityside Archives, Ltd.'s Motion to be Relieved as Counsel. This Court heard oral argument on October 29, 1998. For the reasons stated herein, defendant New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation's Motion to Amend the Judgment is GRANTED. Additionally, counsel of record for plaintiff Cityside Archives, Ltd.'s Motion for Attorney's Fees is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. Finally, counsel of record for plaintiff Cityside Archives, Ltd.'s Motion to Be Relieved as Counsel is DISMISSED AS MOOT.

STATEMENT OF FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Cityside Archives, Ltd. ("Cityside"), a corporation engaged in the business of archival storage and warehousing, and defendant Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center ("Lincoln") entered into a contract for the storage of certain records (the "Agreement"). The Agreement was signed by a Lincoln representative on February 24, 1994 and by a Cityside representative on February 25, 1994. Defendant New York City Health and Hospital Corporation ("NYCHHC") is a New York public benefit corporation which supervises certain activities of several member hospitals, including Lincoln.

On November 13, 1995, Cityside filed a Complaint against NYCHHC and Lincoln. Cityside maintained the position that Lincoln ceased making payments to Cityside for various invoices for storage and related services which Cityside allegedly performed. Essentially, Cityside claimed that Lincoln was obligated to store its x-rays (hereinafter the "Lincoln x-rays") with Cityside and to obtain a release to Cityside of non-x-ray or paper records stored at Pierce Leahy (hereinafter the "Pierce records"). Accordingly, Cityside set forth several counts in the Complaint: (1) breach of contract; (2) fraud; (3) breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and (4) tortious interference with contract. Cityside also sought specific performance and $382,879.96 in "past due rent, current rent, rent to the end of the term and permanent removal charges." See Complaint filed November 13, 1995.

This Court found during the liability phase of the trial that defendants Lincoln and NYCHHC had breached the Agreement only with regard to the Pierce records that were supposed to have been transferred to Cityside. Cityside did not prevail on all other claims, including the principal part of the litigation which dealt with the storage of the Lincoln x-rays.

On August 18, 1998, this Court entered judgment in favor of Cityside but refrained from entering a final judgment until counsel for Cityside, Mr. Leonard Berkeley, provided the Court with affidavits of services rendered that included only those fees incurred in connection with the Pierce records portion of the litigation.

Thereafter, Mr. Berkeley filed two separate motions; a Motion to be Relieved as Counsel and a Motion for Attorney's Fees. NYCHHC also filed a Motion to Amend the Court's Judgment and filed several briefs in opposition to Mr. Berkeley's Motion for Attorney's Fees.

Despite this Court's instructions to submit an itemized list of fees incurred only in connection with the Pierce records, on September 29, 1998, Mr. Leonard Berkeley, submitted a letter brief and a Supplemental Certification in support of the Motion for Attorney's Fees. In his letter brief, Mr. Berkeley once again indicated that he was relying upon the previously-submitted Certification of Services and reiterated that, "[t]here was virtually no time spent exclusively on the issues of either the Lincoln records stored at Pierce Leahy or the Lincoln u-rays stored at Pierce Leahy." See September 29, 1998 letter brief submitted by Leonard Berkeley, Esq., pages 1-2; see also original Certification dated June 12, 1998. In the Supplemental Certification, Mr. Berkeley contended that, "It is my belief, and only a belief, that perhaps 10% of the time, if that much was related to the issue of the [Lincoln] x-ray storage." See Supplemental Certification dated September 29, 1998, ¶ 4.

Upon review of Mr. Berkeley's letter brief and Supplemental Certification, this Court once again contacted Mr. Berkeley's office, via telephone, and inquired into whether Mr. Berkeley had any intention of complying with this Court's direction to focus only on the attorney's fees accrued in connection with the Pierce Leahy records. Mr. Berkeley represented that he was relying on the September 29, 1998 letter brief submitted, the Supplemental Certification, as well as, the original Certification of Services and Exhibit # 228 (a mass of paper two-inches thick typed in the most microscopic print). Mr. Berkeley memorialized this conversation in a brief letter to the Court and enclosed an additional copy of the referenced documents for ease of reference. See October 8, 1998 letter submitted by Leonard Berkeley, Esq. and attached documents.

Subsequent to NYCHHC being given the opportunity to oppose the Motion for Attorney's Fees, Mr. Berkeley then filed an additional Certification on October 19, 1998 wherein he reiterated that, "For the reasons set forth herein it is truly believed that Cityside is entitled to all of the counsel fees requested in its prior submission." See Certification of Leonard Berkeley dated October 19, 1998, ¶ 16.

Essentially, Mr. Berkeley maintains the position that virtually no time was spent on matters unrelated to the Pierce records and, accordingly, requests that this Court grant counsel's request for attorney's fees in the amount of $630,703.40.

DISCUSSION

I. Motion to Amend the Judgment

A proper motion to alter or amend a judgment "must rely on one of three major grounds: `(1)an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence [not available previously]; or (3) the need to correct clear error [of law] or prevent manifest injustice.'" North River Insurance Company v. CIGNA Reinsurance Company, 52 F.3d 1194 (3d Cir. 1995)(citing Natural Resources Defense Council v. U.S. Envtl. Protection Agency, 705 F. Supp. 698, 702 (D.D.C. 1989)(quoting All Hawaii Tours, Corp. v. Polynesian Cultural Ctr., 116 F.R.D. 645, 649 (D.Haw. 1987), rev'd on oth. grds, 855 F.2d 860 (9th Cir. 1988), vacated on oth. grds., 707 F. Supp. 3 (D.D.C. 1989))).

With regard to the removal charges, this Court held that Cityside would have received $14.75 per storage unit, plus $1.00 per storage unit in computer-related charges at the end of the storage term when the records were released. When the Court multiplied the number of storage units (2,327) by the aforementioned figures, the Court determined that Cityside was entitled to $36,650.25 in removal charges of the Pierce records.

NYCHHC contends that the damage award with respect to the removal charges in favor of Cityside should be reduced by the amount of $11,778.13*fn1 because the present amount awarded to Cityside represents a "windfall" not permitted in a breach of contract action. More specifically, NYCHHC asserts that this Court's calculation of Cityside's damages did not take into account the fact that Cityside never paid Pierce Leahy's removal charges because Cityside never actually transferred the records stored with that vendor. NYCHHC argues that "since Cityside would have had to pay Pierce Leahy's removal charges before transferring those records, the Court's Judgment actually ...


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