“For instance, Grandpa Gibson, who is 90 years old, was subjected to five (5) days of questioning lasting nearly nineteen (19) hours.”
The post-verdict fight over legal fees continues in the Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College case.
The jury decided that Gibson’s would get attorney’s fees, but it is up to Judge John Miraldi to determine the amount.
Last week Daniel McGraw reported on the court hearing, and the astounding fact that the lawyers on each side had time into the case equaling just under $5 million. The defense lawyers got paid hourly, the Gibson’s lawyers have the case on a 40% contingent fee, but kept track of their time.
Now we have most of the filings made in connection with the application for legal fees. We don’t have everything, because some filings were made under seal and are not publicly available.
The Application for Legal Fees (pdf.)(full embed at bottom of post) filed by Gibson’s shed light on why the lawyer time into the case was so high. Oberlin College litigated the stuffing out of the case:
Before discussing the specific rates and hours for each attorney, the complexity and magnitude of the litigation must be outlined. This case required five (5) weeks of trial with an additional week dedicated to arguing motions in limine and Daubert challenges. Combined, both parties called thirty-three (33) witnesses during trial with some examinations lasting numerous hours. In addition to actual trial time, discovery and pre-trial issues were complex and contentious, with nearly fifty (50) depositions, hundreds of thousands of pages of discovery exchanged, and numerous discovery and procedural motions filed.
Importantly, a significant portion of Plaintiffs’ fees were expended because of Defendants’ counsel’s actions:
Depositions. Defendants took thirty-two depositions, including nearly the entirety of the Oberlin Police Department. During these depositions, Defendants subjected numerous witnesses to multi-day questioning. For instance, Grandpa Gibson, who is 90 years old, was subjected to five (5) days of questioning lasting nearly nineteen (19) hours. Similarly, Dave was subjected to three (3) days of questioning lasting 20 hours.4
Not even nonparties were spared. Lorna Gibson, Dave’s wife, was subjected to two (2) days of questioning lasting nearly ten (10) hours. Lieutenant Michael McCloskey was subjected to two (2) days of questioning with the vast majority of that questioning coming from Defendants. Local reporter Jason Hawk was likewise subjected to two (2) days of questioning, the vast majority of which was asked by Defendants’ counsel. Store clerk Brent Gingery was questioned for more than seven (7) hours. Even 85-year-old Dr. Roy Ebihara was deposed on multiple days….
Regardless of the actual intent behind Defendants’ tactics throughout this litigation, there can be no doubt that they led to an extraordinary amount of time required of Plaintiffs’ counsel to take this case through trial.
Motion Practice. Defendants also littered the pre-trial docket with numerous unnecessary procedural and discovery motions. By Plaintiffs’ count, Defendants filed seventeen (17) motions. Defendants lost, at least in part, the vast majority of these motions. Additionally, a substantial portion of the documents Defendants produced were withheld for several months due to unnecessary motion practice on the extent of discoverable ESI.
Evidentiary Motions. By Plaintiffs’ count, Defendants filed sixteen (16) motions in limine and Daubert challenges that required a week of hearings and arguments to resolve.
Based on the complexity and length of the case and the actions of Defendants’ counsel, the lodestar amount for the legal services provided by Plaintiffs’ counsel is inherently reasonable.
In sum, the Gibsons’ seek, in addition to the $25 judgment, “attorneys’ fees between $9.5 million and $14.5 million, which is the lodestar amount with a two to three multiplier enhancement, and litigation expenses of$404,139.22.”
Oberlin College’s Opposition (pdf.) and Gibson’s Reply (pdf.)(full embeds at bottom of post) argue over the law, the billing practices and record keeping, and what “reasonable” attorney’s fees means in this context. You can read the arguments at the links and below.
The big takeaway is that this was a case of Oberlin College not seeing the forest for the trees at so many levels.
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.