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Gail A. Connor v. Sedgwick Claims Management Services

December 17, 2012

GAIL A. CONNOR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SEDGWICK CLAIMS MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration [Doc. No. 53] of this Court's prior Opinion and Order entered on February 23, 2012. [Doc. Nos. 51 & 52.] For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion will be granted.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are familiar to all relevant parties and the Court, and are detailed in the Court's prior Opinions.

[See Doc. Nos. 38, 39, 51, & 52.] The Court therefore only discusses the facts and procedural history relevant to the instant Motion.

On June 24, 2011, the Court entered an Order granting in part and denying in part Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. [Doc. No. 39.] Based on the partial success of her Motion, Plaintiff thereafter filed a Motion for Attorneys' Fees, requesting an award of 185.25*fn1 hours at the rate of $375.00 per hour, for a total of $69,468.75, plus costs in the amount of $350.00. [Doc. Nos. 42 & 50.] On February 23, 2012, the Court entered an Order which granted Plaintiff's request for attorneys' fees, but reduced the overall amount of the award. [Doc. No. 52.] More specifically, the Court found that Plaintiff's counsel's claimed hourly rate of $375.00 did not reflect the prevailing market rate in southern New Jersey. As such, the Court set counsel's hourly rate at $250.00 - an amount more indicative of the prevailing rates in the southern New Jersey region. The Court further reduced Plaintiff's counsel fee by ten percent (10%) for time spent litigating unsuccessful claims. Finally, the Court also deducted from the total amount 14.75 hours spent by Plaintiff's counsel on clerical tasks, and 73.50 hours spent on work that should have been delegated to a paralegal or associate paid at a lower rate. With regard to the latter, the Court determined that the accepted hourly rate of an associate attorney in southern New Jersey is $150.00, and the accepted rate of a paralegal is $85.00. Based on these rates, the Court applied a blended rate of $117.50 to the 73.50 hours that Plaintiff's counsel should have delegated to an associate or paralegal. The Court thereafter applied the "Lodestar Formula" to find the reasonable attorney fee amount due in this case, finding as follows:

As stated above, the reasonable hourly rate to be applied for plaintiff's counsel is $250 per hour. The 14.75 hours spent on clerical tasks will be deducted, and the 73.5 hours that should have been delegated will be deducted leaving a total number of attorney hours of 97 (185.25 -88.25 = 97). Thus, the lodestar for plaintiff's counsel is now $250 multiplied by 97, or $24,250. Added to this amount will be the time deemed to have been delegated to a paralegal/associate in the amount of $8,636.25, for total fees in the amount of $32,886.25. Subtracted from this amount will be the 10% reduction for litigation of unsuccessful claims resulting in a final fee amount of $29,597.62. There is no disagreement over the request for filing fees in the amount of $350 which will be added to the lodestar for total of award of $29,947.62.

[Doc. No. 51.] The Court entered an Order on February 23, 2012 awarding Plaintiff's counsel fees in the amount of $29,947.62. [Doc. No. 52.] Plaintiff then filed a motion seeking reconsideration of that Order on the grounds that the attorneys' fee award applied by the Court was erroneous.*fn2 [Doc. No. 53.]

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly recognize motions for reconsideration. See Harrison v. Smith, No.Civ.A.08-3050, 2010 WL 715666, at *2 (D.N.J. Feb. 24, 2010) (citing United States v. Compaction Sys. Corp., 88 F.Supp.2d 339, 345 (D.N.J. 1999)). Generally, such motions are treated as motions to alter or amend the judgment of the court pursuant to Rule 59(e), or as motions for relief from the court's judgment and/or order under Rule 60(b). See Harrison, 2010 WL 715666 at *2. In the District of New Jersey, motions for reconsideration are governed by Local Civil Rule 7.1(i). Bowers v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletics Assoc., 130 F.Supp.2d 610, 612 (D.N.J. 2001). That rule provides, in relevant part, as follows:

[A] motion for reconsideration shall be served and filed within 14 days after the entry of the order or judgment on the original motion by the Judge. . . . A brief setting forth concisely the matter or controlling decisions which the party believes the Judge . . . has overlooked shall be filed with the Notice of Motion.

L.R. 7.1(i).

A motion for reconsideration is "a device to relitigate the original issue decided by the district court, and [it is] used to See Levy v. Global Credit & Collection Corp., No. Civ.A.10-4229, 2011 WL 5117855, at *4 (D.N.J. Oct. 27, 2011) (Kugler, J.) (citing Smith v. Phila. Hous. Auth., 107 F.3d 223, 225 (3d Cir. 1997) ("If hourly rates are disputed, the district court must conduct a hearing to determine the reasonable market rates.")). In the instant case, the Court held a hearing on this matter on November 15, 2012. [See Doc. No. 65.] allege legal error." Dermo v. Isaacson, No. Civ.A.11-06520, 2012 WL 4207179, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 19, 2012) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). In order to prevail on a reconsideration motion, the movant has the burden of demonstrating one of the following:

(1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court [issued its order]; or (3) the need to correct a clear error ...


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