October 17, 2022
A recent Law 360 story by Rosie Manins, “$40M Excessive Force Judgment Winner Wants Extra $3.4M” reports that the winner of a $100 million excessive force verdict has asked a Georgia federal court to add $3.4 million in attorney fees, litigation costs and interest to the final $40 million judgment against an Atlanta police officer. Keith Edwards, as the guardian and conservator for Jerry Blasingame, said in a motion that post-judgment interest on the court's final judgment against officer Jon Grubbs is accumulating at a rate of almost $19,000 a day.
A jury awarded Edwards $100 million in late August at the end of an eight-day trial, apportioning $60 million in damages against the city of Atlanta and $40 million against Grubbs. U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones then scrapped the award against the city, granting its motion for a judgment as a matter of law that Grubbs' tasing of Blasingame — which rendered the 69-year-old a quadriplegic — was not the result of a city policy, custom or practice.
Edwards said the $60 million reduction in damages should not affect his bid for reasonable attorney fees, litigation costs, and pre-and-post-judgment interest. "Plaintiff is still entitled to fees and costs on all the work completed," Edwards said. "The fees and costs should not be reduced because the court set aside part of the jury's verdict award."
The team of plaintiff attorneys spent about 455 hours on the case, in addition to the extensive work of three paralegals, per the motion. Based on hourly rates between $350 and $1,000, the attorneys sought just over $300,000 in fees. They also asked to be reimbursed nearly $60,000 for the paralegals' work, based on an hourly rate of $125, and for just over $50,000 in litigation expenses. Edwards said he is additionally entitled to $2.7 million in prejudgment interest, as well as almost $300,000 in post-judgment interest as of Oct. 6.
The jury found that Grubbs used excessive or unreasonable force, and that Blasingame's injuries were a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the officer's conduct and would not have happened otherwise. The jurors also found that Grubbs' actions in attempting to arrest Blasingame were "under color" of law and that an official policy or custom of the city of Atlanta was the "moving force" behind Blasingame's injuries. Grubbs is appealing the judgment against him to the Eleventh Circuit.
Edwards' lead counsel, Vernon "Ven" R. Johnson of Johnson Law PLC, is a litigator with 38 years of experience who in the last 12 years has racked up more than $650 million in verdicts and settlements, per the motion. He charged $1,000 per hour for the 160 hours he spent on the case, the motion notes. Ayanna D. Hatchett of Johnson's law firm assisted on the case and also spent about 160 hours, at an hourly rate of $500. Darren M. Tobin of Tobin Injury Law also worked on the case for about 77 hours, at an hourly rate of $510.
Edwards' former counsel, Solomon M. Radner of Radner Law Group PLLC and Madeline Sinkovich of Mike Morse Law Firm spent about 58 hours on the case and both worked at Johnson's firm as well as Excolo Law during the relevant time frame, the motion notes. The plaintiff's team, including paralegals, spent more than 830 hours on the case in total, per the motion.