United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBER'S UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
January 31, 2018, Plaintiff Alicia Gonzales filed a complaint
against Defendant Marshall University Board of Governors for
allegedly violating 20 U.S.C. § 1681, et. seq.,
also known as Title IX. On March 14, 2019, Plaintiff filed a
Motion to Determine Reasonable Expert Fee, which is now
pending before this Court. ECF No. 50. For the reasons below,
the Court denies Plaintiff's motion.
result of this lawsuit, both Plaintiff and Defendant have
retained expert witnesses to offer their opinions on
Defendant's handling of the disciplinary process.
See ECF No. 50, at 1. Relevant to this
motion is Defendant's expert Brett Sokolow, who Plaintiff
has scheduled a deposition for. See Id. Mr. Sokolow
is an attorney, and currently resides in Los Angeles,
California, but is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania
and New Jersey. See Id. at 4; ECF No. 53, at 2. Mr.
Sokolow is also the President and CEO of the National Center
for Higher Education Risk Management, the President of the
Association of Title IX Administrators, and is the founder
and Board Chair of the Advisory Board for the National
Behavioral Intervention Team Association. See ECF
No. 53, at 4.
has advised Plaintiff that Mr. Sokolow will charge Plaintiff
$700.00 per hour for his time,  and will only be deposed in Los
Angeles, California. See ECF No. 50, at 2. Plaintiff
finds this price unreasonable, and in violation of Rule 26 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”).
Thus, she has filed the above referenced motion, and requests
this Court to enter an order limiting Mr. Sokolow's fees
to $275.00 per hour for his deposition. ECF No. 54, at 5.
of the FRCP states that, unless manifest injustice would
result, a court must require a party seeking to depose an
expert to pay the expert a “reasonable” fee.
See FRCP 26(b)(4)(E)(i).
determine whether a fee is “reasonable, ” courts
consider the following factors:
(1) the witness's area of expertise, (2) the education
and training that is required to provide the expert insight
that is sought, (3) the prevailing rates for other comparably
respected available experts, (4) the nature, quality and
complexity of the discovery responses provided, (5) the cost
of living in the particular geographic area, (6) the fee
being charged by the expert to the party who retained him,
(7) fees traditionally charged by the expert on related
matters, and (8) any other factor likely to be of assistance
to the court in balancing the interests implicated by Rule
First S. Bank v. Fifth Third Bank, N.A., 2014 WL
3868000, at *4 (D.S.C. Aug. 6, 2014), aff'd sub
nom. 631 Fed.Appx. 121 (4th Cir. 2015) (internal
a guiding principle is that “the expert's fee
should not be so high as to impair a party's access to
necessary discovery or result in a windfall to the
expert.” Id. (internal quotations omitted).
Finally, the party seeking reimbursement of its expert
witness' fee “has the burden of demonstrating to
the court that the expert's rate and fee are
reasonable.” Fint v. Brayman Constr. Corp.,
2019 WL 124835, at *3 (S.D. W.Va. Jan. 7, 2019) (internal
on the factors above, the Court holds that Mr. Sokolow's
fee of $700.00 per hour is reasonable. First, Mr. Sokolow is
an attorney, President of both the National Center for Higher
Education Risk Management and the Association of Title IX
Administrators, and is the founder and Board Chair of the
Advisory Board for the National Behavioral Intervention Team
Association. Thus, Mr. Sokolow clearly has expertise relevant
to this Title IX lawsuit, and the education and professional
history that renders him a valuable expert is substantial.
Additionally, Mr. Sokolow resides in Los Angeles, California,
where the cost of living is near the highest in the United
States. Finally, Defendant submits to this Court
that Mr. Sokolow is also charging it $700.00 per hour for his
services, and that Mr. Sokolow has charged $700.00 per hour
in various related matters. See ECF No. 53, at 2.
only two factors can weigh in Plaintiff's favor: first,
the prevailing rates for other comparably respected available
experts, and second, the nature, quality and complexity of
the discovery responses provided. Regarding the first factor,
Plaintiff asserts that her own expert, Ms. Bullard, charges
$275.00 per hour, is also a licensed attorney, owns and
operates a consulting company that specializes in providing
institutions guidance on Title IX compliance, was formerly
counsel for a university, frequently speaks and presents on
Title IX, and has served as an expert in litigation.
See ECF No. 50, at 5-6. However, while Ms. ...