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New York City Jail Prisoner Awarded $1.3 Million in Deliberate Indifference to Assault Claim

A New York federal jury awarded $1 million to Steve Tatum for severe injuries he sustained as a pre-trial detainee when he was assaulted by other prisoners at the Rikers Island jail. The district court also awarded $321,788.21 in attorney’s fees and $4,023.62 in costs.
Tatum’s complaint originally included 13 claims, but only seven made it to trial. The jury found for Tatum on just his deliberate indifference claim against Rikers guard Renee Jackson.

That claim stated Jackson was indifferent to an assault on Tatum by other detainees on April 29, 2005; additional claims alleged she conspired with the prisoners and aided and abetted the brutal attack. As a result of the assault, Tatum suffered two fractures in his jawbone and fractures on either side of his upper nasal bones.

Following the jury’s July 30, 2009 verdict awarding him $1 million in compensatory damages, Tatum moved for attorney’s fees and costs. Although he lost on most of his claims, the jury award was proof he had succeeded on a significant issue.

Since there was no dispute that Tatum was a prevailing party entitled to attorney’s fees, the only question that remained was the amount of the fees. The court found that $450 an hour was reasonable for attorney Adam Perlmutter and $400 was reasonable for attorney Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma. It further found that $125 an hour was appropriate for paralegal fees.

The district court reduced the requested hours by 5.5 for each attorney for work done on administrative or clerical tasks, calculating that time at the rate for paralegals. It also reduced the total fee by 15% for work on Tatum’s unsuccessful municipal liability and negligent hiring claims. The court’s order awarding over $325,800 in fees and costs was entered on January 28, 2010. See: Tatum v. City of New York, U.S.D.C. (S.D. NY), Case No. 1:06-cv-04290-PGG-GWG.

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Related legal case

Tatum v. City of New York