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Court Awards Attorney Fees under Americans with Disabilities Act

Shane Feldman, et al. v. Pro Football, Inc., et al.
Civil Action No. 8:06-cv-2266AW, Sept. Term 2009

by Lydia S. Hu, Associate
Semmes, Bowen & Semmes (

The Honorable Alexander Williams, Jr., United States District Court for the District of Maryland, awarded attorney’s fees to Plaintiff under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The underlying case involved claims brought by deaf and hard of hearing fans who regularly attended Redskins games at FedEx Field. The claims sought equal access to the aural information broadcast over the stadium bowl public address system at FedEx Field. Plaintiffs prevailed in the underlying matter on a summary judgment motion. Shortly after the claim was filed, Defendants captioned most of the content. At the summary judgment hearing, Defendants argued that the case should be dismissed as moot because the stadium was at that point providing most of the content in caption. Instead, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, ordering that the lyrics to music played over the stadium’s public address system will be captioned as well.

Plaintiff requested attorney’s fees prior to appeal. After the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court grant of summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs again moved for attorney’s fees authorized by the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12205 and in accordance with Local Rule 109.2. Defendants did not contest the hourly rate as being unreasonable, but requested the Court to reduce the amount of fee recovery to twenty-five (25%) percent of the attorney’s fees. Defendants argued that Plaintiffs had very limited degree of success in this action because Defendants voluntarily provided the sought after accommodation within six (6) weeks of the date the case was filed.

The Court rejected Defendants’ position. Plaintiffs were forced to pursue the case to judgment despite Defendants’ accommodation because Defendants were free to stop providing caption at any time absent of a declaratory judgment. Also, Defendants maintained throughout the duration of the lawsuit that the American with Disabilities Act did not require them to provide deaf and hard of hearing fans with auxiliary services.

Accordingly, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ request for attorney’s fees in full.