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Award in Massachusetts Prisoner’s ADA Case Includes Over $410,000 in Attorney Fees, Costs

by David M. Reutter

Following a March 10, 2017 jury award totaling $250,000, a Massachusetts federal district court awarded $410,116.87 in attorney fees and costs in a prisoner’s lawsuit raising Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claims.

Prisoner William Cox, 57, who is mentally disabled, was awarded a verdict against Steven J. O’Brien, a prison superintendent with the Massachusetts Department of Correction (MDOC). The jury found that MDOC officials had failed to provide Cox with meaningful access to “(1) procedures to obtain medical care (2) procedures to report and resolve grievances (3) procedures to report physical or sexual threats or assaults and (4) use of telephones.” It awarded $50,000, $25,000, $150,000 and $25,000, respectively, on those claims.

In a post-trial order in March 2018, the district court found Cox’s claim related to use of phones was not supported by the evidence and dismissed that portion of the verdict. Further, it remitted the claim for reporting problems and resolving grievances to $1,000, reducing the total judgment to $201,000.

Cox’s attorneys, Rosemary Scapicchio and Amy Codagnone, moved for $731,307.50 in attorney fees plus $5,039.37 in costs. The MDOC objected and sought a reduction. The court reduced the amount of hours spent on failed claims and for inefficient work and billing records; it cut Codagnone’s hours by 15 percent and Scapicchio’s by five percent as a sanction for block billing all work and failing to record hours spent on each issue.

The district court’s May 10, 2019 order set Scapicchio’s hourly rate at $450 and Codagnone’s at $300. That resulted in an attorney fee award of $195,880 for Scapicchio and $209,197.50 for Codagnone. The court also awarded costs of $4,960.93 to Scapicchio and $78.44 to Codagnone. See: Cox v. Massachusetts Department of Correction, U.S.D.C. (D. Mass.), Case No. 1:13-cv-10379-FDS. 

Related legal case

Cox v. Massachusetts Department of Correction