Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

$143,774.55 Attorney Fee and Costs Award in New York EMSA Suit

by Matthew T. Clarke

On May 16, 2006, a New York federal district court magistrate recommended awarding $143,774.55 in attorney fees and costs to the attorneys who represented a prisoner in a civil rights action.

Byron Lake was a prisoner in the Schenectady County (New York) Jail. Due to overcrowding, he was transferred to the Schoharie County (New York) Jail. Shortly thereafter, he began experiencing chest pains. Schoharie County officials attempted unsuccessfully to contact the jail?s primary physician, then transferred Lake back to Schenectady County untreated.
There, Lake was seen by an employee of EMSA Correctional Care, Inc., a private medical care provider. The EMSA employee determined that Lake did not require hospitalization.

The next day, Lake complained of feeling very ill, was seen by a different EMSA employee and was transferred to a hospital where it was discovered that he had suffered a heart attack.

Lake filed suit against various defendants, including the counties and EMSA. A jury awarded Lake $150,000 in compensatory damages against all defendants and $632,988 in punitive damages against EMSA. On post-trial motions, the trial judge dismissed all claims against Schoharie County and set aside the punitive damages award. Plaintiff filed a motion for award of attorney fees and costs.

The trial court held that plaintiff?s motion was not untimely, even though it was filed after the 14-day limit set forth in Rule 54(d)(2)(B), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because it was filed before the post-trial motions were ruled on and Rule 54(d)(2)(B) had been interpreted to mean 14 days after the post-trial motions were ruled on.

The court rejected defendants? argument that the PLRA attorney fees cap should be applied to this case because Lake was no longer a prisoner when he filed the suit.

The court determined that an appropriate lodestar amount for this case was $210 for experienced attorneys, $150 for associates with more than four years experience, $120 for less experienced associates and $80 for paralegals. The court found some of the number of hours requested by plaintiffs to be excessive and trimmed them from a total of 1,126.5 hours to 899 hours of legal services. This gave a total fee award of $172,920 at the lodestar amount.

The court then reduced the award by 20% because the plaintiff failed to prevail against Schoharie County. This resulted in attorney fees of $138,336.

The court granted plaintiffs costs, but reduced the $5,606.60 in requested costs in two areas, excessive fees for service and expert witness fees. The awarded costs amounted to $5,438.55. This made a total of $143,774.55 in awarded attorney fees and costs to attorney Kevin A. Luibrand of Albany. See: Lake v. Schoharie County Commissioners of Social Services, USDC-ND NY, No. 9:01-CV-1284 (NAM/DEP).

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Lake v. Schoharie County Commissioners of Social Services