Obsidian Finance Group, LLC et al v. Cox
ORDER: Plaintiffs' supplemental motion for fees and costs 98 is granted in part and denied in part. Plaintiffs are awarded $4,911.57 as against defendant for defendant's failure to appear at her deposition. See 10-page order attached. Signed on 1/23/2012 by Judge Marco A. Hernandez. Copy emailed to defendant Crystal Cox. (mr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF OREGON
OBSIDIAN FINANCE GROUP, LLC, and
KEVIN D. PADRICK,
Steven M Wilker
David S. Aman
TONKON TORP LLP
1600 Pioneer Tower
888 S.W. Fifth Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97204
Attorneys for Plaintiffs
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Benjamin N. Souede
ANGELI LAW GROUP LLC
121 SW Morrison Street, Suite 400
Portland, OR 97204
MAYER BROWN, LLP
UCLA School of Law
405 Hilgard Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Attorneys for Defendant
HERNANDEZ, District Judge:
In this defamation case, plaintiffs Obsidian Finance Group, LLC and Kevin Padrick
sought sanctions in the form of attorney's fees and costs, against defendant for defendant's failure
to appear at a noticed deposition. In a November 2, 2011 Minute Order, I granted plaintiff's
motion, stating that I would determine the actual amount of the sanction after the November 29,
2011 trial. Following the entry of Judgment, plaintiffs renewed their motion. I grant the motion
In an August 30, 2011 telephone scheduling conference, I set a discovery closing date of
October 15, 2011. On September 6, 2011, plaintiffs' counsel David Aman emailed defendant
regarding her availability for her deposition on October 12, 13, or 14th, 2011. Oct. 14, 2011
Aman Decl. at ¶ 3; Ex. 2 to Oct. 14, 2011 Aman Decl.; Local Civ. Rule 30-2 (requiring counsel
to confer regarding mutually agreeable deposition date before sending deposition notice). With
one exception noted below, plaintiffs used two email addresses for defendant on all emails. Id.1
One address was "email@example.com" and the other was
"firstname.lastname@example.org". Both of these email addresses appear in the Court's docket sheet as
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At the time, defendant was representing herself.2 According to Aman, defendant did not respond
to the email inquiry. Oct. 14, 2011 Aman Decl. at ¶ 3.
Aman states that he left a voicemail for defendant on September 7, 2011, regarding his
attempt to confer with defendant about a motion to dismiss counterclaims plaintiffs were
preparing to file, and to follow-up on the previous day's email regarding the deposition. Oct. 14,
2011 Aman Decl. at ¶ 4. Defendant did not respond. Id.
On September 8, 2011, Aman emailed defendant about the motion to dismiss. Oct. 14,
2011 Aman Decl. at ¶ 5; Ex. 3 to Oct. 14, 2011 Aman Decl. Defendant did not respond. Oct.
14, 2011 Aman Decl. at ¶ 5.
On September 12, 2011, plaintiffs served defendant by mail and email with a Notice of
Deposition for October 12, 2011. Oct. 14, 2011 Aman Decl. at ¶ 6; Ex. 4 to Oct. 14, 2011 Aman
Decl.3 The deposition was scheduled for 10:00 a.m., October 12, 2011, in Kalispell, Montana, at
the office of a local court reporter service. Id. The Notice informed defendant that it would be a
deposition upon oral examination, and would be recorded by stenographic and/or videotape
means. Id. Defendant gave no response, including no objection, to the Notice. Oct. 14, 2011
Aman Decl. at ¶ 6.
On September 20, 2011, Aman emailed defendant asking her to confirm that she had
received the deposition Notice. Oct. 14, 2011 Aman Decl. at ¶ 7; Ex. 5 to Oct. 14, 2011 Aman
belonging to defendant.
Although now represented by counsel, defendant represented herself throughout the
case, including through trial, entry of Judgment, and responding to plaintiffs' renewed motion for
The email indicates that it went only to the "email@example.com" email address.
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Decl. A second copy of the Notice of Deposition was attached to that email. Id. Defendant did
not respond. Oct. 14, 2011 Aman Decl. at ¶ 7.
At about this same time, defendant was regularly communicating by email with Court
staff, using the "firstname.lastname@example.org" email address plaintiff had been using to send emails
to defendant. E.g., Exs 6 & 7 to Oct. 14, 2011 Aman Decl.
By October 6, 2011, defendant's responses to plaintiffs' discovery requests, served on
defendant in early September 2011, were due. Oct. 14, 2011 Aman Decl. at ¶¶ 2, 9. On October
10, 2011, Aman emailed defendant requesting that she bring documents responsive to plaintiffs'
requests for production, to the deposition on October 12, 2011. Oct. 14, 2011 Aman Decl. at ¶ 9;
Ex. 8 to Oct. 14, 2011 Aman Decl. Defendant did not respond. Oct. 14, 2011 Aman Decl. at ¶ 9.
On October 11, 2011, Aman traveled to Kalispell, Montana from Portland, Oregon, and
appeared at the noticed date, time, and location of the deposition. Oct. 14, 2011 Aman Decl. at ¶
10. Defendant failed to appear or to otherwise contact Aman about the deposition at any time.
Id.; see also Ex. 9 to Oct. 14, 2011 Aman Decl. (transcript of deposition); Ex. 10 to Oct. 14, 2011
Aman Decl. (email from court reporter confirming defendant did not appear on October 12,
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(d) allows for sanctions if a party, after being served
with proper notice, fails to appear for that party's deposition. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(d)(1)(A)(i).
Permissible sanctions may include any of the orders listed in Rule 37(b)(2)(A)(i)-(vi). Fed. R.
Civ. P. 37(d)(3). Alternatively, or additionally, the "court must require the party failing to act, . .
. to pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, caused by the failure, unless the
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failure was substantially justified or other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust." Id.
(emphasis added). As indicated in my November 2, 2011 Minute Order, I granted plaintiff's
motion for sanctions to the extent that plaintiffs sought an award of reasonable attorney's fees for
defendant's failure to appear at her deposition. No other sanction was warranted.
In opposition to the motion, defendant raises two arguments: (1) she did not believe she
was required to appear for a deposition without a court order; and (2) she feared for her personal
safety if she appeared at the deposition as noticed. Neither argument is persuasive. Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 30 grants a party the right to take a deposition by oral question, as a matter of
right and without leave of court, of any person, including a party. Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(a)(1).
Although there are certain exceptions, none of them apply here. Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(a)(2).
Defendant's misunderstanding of the rules does not excuse her noncompliance with them. Even
as a pro se party, defendant is required to abide by court rules. Ghazali v. Moran, 46 F.3d 52, 54
(9th Cir. 1995).
Defendant indicates that she did not appear for the deposition because she believes that
doing so could have possibly subjected her to physical harm. It is not entirely clear why
defendant believes any person other than plaintiffs' counsel, plaintiffs, the Montana court reporter
and perhaps other persons who worked at the deposition location in Kalispell, and defendant
herself would have known of the deposition's date and time. The Notice of Deposition and all
communications about the deposition were not part of the court record until after October 12,
2011. Defendant suggests that plaintiffs' counsel may have given information about the
deposition to the person she is afraid of.
The problem with defendant's argument is first, she failed to communicate in any way
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with plaintiffs' counsel about her concerns, and second, she failed to seek the court's assistance in
a motion for protective order. As explained in Rule 37(d)(2), defendant's failure to attend her
deposition is not excused on the basis that the deposition was objectionable in any way, unless
she had a motion for protective order under Rule 26(c) pending at the time. Defendant never
filed a motion nor otherwise made the Court aware of her concerns.4
Defendant's complete failure to acknowledge or respond to (1) plaintiffs' initial informal
inquiry regarding setting the deposition, (2) the formal Notice of Deposition, and (3) the other
inquiries made by plaintiffs' counsel, is inexcusable. Under the circumstances, an award of
reasonable attorney's fees under Rule 37(d)(3) is appropriate.
Aman's usual billing rate is $325 per hour. Dec. 22, 2011 Aman Decl. at ¶ 3. He has
fifteen years of experience in complex commercial litigation and is currently the chair of his
firm's intellectual property practice group. Id.
Judges in the District of Oregon use the Oregon State Bar Economic Survey ("OSB
Economic Survey") as a benchmark for assessing the reasonableness of hourly billing rates. E.g.,
McElmurry v. U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n., No. CV-04-642-HA, 2008 WL 1925119, at *3 (D. Or.
Apr. 30, 2008) (the OSB Economic Survey "is a bellwether for the market price of attorney
services in Portland, and the court affords it significant weight in at least establishing a starting
point for reasonable rates."). The most recent complete survey, from 2007, lists billing rates in
Portland by the number of years admitted to private practice and by areas of private practice.
Those who primarily practice business and corporate litigation in Portland had an average hourly
In a subsequently filed motion, defendant requested that the Court exclude the person
she feared would cause her harm from attending the trial. Before that motion, and importantly,
before the date of her deposition, she made no communication to the Court regarding her fear.
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rate of $283 and a median hourly rate of $275. An update by the OSB Business Litigation
Section in March 2008 ("2008 Updated Business Survey") states that the average and median
hourly rate for business litigation attorneys in Oregon at that time was $299.
Given that in 2008, Aman had twelve years of experience practicing business or corporate
litigation, the $299 hourly rate for business litigators would have been a reasonable hourly rate
for Aman at that time. The CPI Inflation Calculator available from the United States Department
of Labor (available at http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm), shows that $1.00 in
2008 has the same buying power as $1.05 in 2011. Thus, the $299 hourly rate in 2008 is
equivalent to $313.95 in 2011. Aman's $325 hourly rate is reasonable.
In his October 14, 2011 Declaration, filed with the initial motion for sanctions, Aman
stated that plaintiffs incurred approximately $4,875 in attorney's fees, $363.80 in airfare, $72.77
for rental car charges, $250 for court reporter services, and $265 for videographer services. Oct.
14, 2011 Aman Decl. at ¶ 11. He explains that the fees were based on 8.0 hours spent traveling
to and from Montana, 5.0 hours spent preparing for the deposition, and 2.0 hours spent appearing
at the deposition. Id. Calculated at $325 per hour, the 15.0 total hours equals $4,875 in fees.
The combined costs amounted to $951.57. Thus, plaintiffs sought a total of $5,826.57 as a
In his December 22, 2011 Declaration, Aman states that the total fees associated with the
deposition in Montana and the motion for sanctions, were $8,413. Dec. 22, 2011 Aman Decl. at
¶ 4. He states that when traveling back from Montana, he worked on the motion for sanctions.
Id. He concedes that some of the time charged for the deposition preparation was useful in
connection with defendant's deposition taken on November 28, 2011. Id. Thus, he states that a
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reasonable estimate of the fees associated with the deposition is $5,000. Id. He further states
that the travel charges were $831.97, and the court reporter appearance fee was $250. Id. at ¶ 5.
Exhibit 1 to Aman's Declaration, containing information from his firm's accounting
system, shows the following:
Review and select documents for use
in exhibits, including website screen
shots; e-mails with Mr. Padrick
regarding deposition questions;
prepare deposition outline; analyze
discovery and trial issues with Mr.
Wilker; e-mails regarding potential
expert on reputation damages
Collect and organize exhibits for Ms.
Travel to Montana; prepare for
deposition of Ms. Cox
Prepare for and attend deposition;
travel to Portland; work on motion
Ex. 1 to Dec. 22, 2011 Aman Decl.
It is unclear why the 15.0 hours Aman originally represented in his October 14, 2011
Declaration as having been spent on the deposition, have grown to 28.6 hours as shown in
Exhibit 1. Plaintiffs offer no explanation for the discrepancy. Even adding the 6.3 hours by
"Bachman," does not account for the difference.5 Because Aman states that he worked on the
Plaintiffs fail to give Bachman's full name, her position in the firm, expressly state her
hourly rate (which the Court calculated at $185/hour by dividing the amount billed by the number
of hours worked), or information regarding her experience.
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motion for sanctions while traveling home from Montana, the difference in hours cannot be
attributed to additional time spent on the motion. Aman's initial statements regarding the hours
incurred in preparing for and attending defendant's deposition were made on October 14, 2011,
after the dates on which the hours were expended. At that time, Aman should have possessed
accurate information regarding the hours. Because of the lack of explanation about why the
hours claimed in the December 22, 2011 Aman Declaration and Exhibit 1, are greater than the
hours set forth in the October 14, 2011 Aman Declaration, I find that the more
contemporaneously made statements are likely more accurate. Thus, with the adjustments noted
below, I rely on the hours set forth in Aman's October 14, 2011 Declaration as the basis for the
As indicated above, Aman states he spent 5.0 hours preparing for the deposition, 8.0
hours traveling to and from Montana, and 2.0 hours attending the deposition. Oct. 14, 2011
Aman Decl. at ¶ 11. In the supplemental motion, he indicates that some of the time he spent
preparing was ultimately used when he took defendant's deposition in November 2011. I subtract
3.0 hours from the 5.0 hours spent because Aman was subsequently able to put this time to use.
However, I recognize that Aman likely spent some time after returning to Portland to finalize the
motion for sanctions which he worked on while traveling home from Montana. Thus, I award
1.0 hour for that task. The total number of hours awarded for Aman in connection with the
deposition is 3.0, along with 8.0 hours for travel, and 2.0 hours for attending the deposition. At
$325 per hour, the 13.0 hours equals $4,225.
As to costs, plaintiffs fail to explain why the claimed travel costs of $436.57 ($363.80 in
airfare, $72.77 for rental car charges) in the October 14, 2011 Aman Declaration, became
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$831.97 in the December 22, 2011 Aman Declaration. I award the $436.57 initially claimed.
Finally, in the October 14, 2011 Declaration, Aman states plaintiffs incurred a $250 court
reporter fee and a $265 videographer fee, but in the December 22, 2011 Declaration, he cites only
the $250 court reporter fee. Again, no explanation is provided. I assume the videographer fee
was not actually incurred when plaintiff failed to appear. Thus, I award only the $250 court
The total sanction is $4,911.57.
Plaintiffs' supplemental motion for fees and costs  is granted in part and denied in
part. Plaintiffs are awarded $4,911.57 as against defendant for defendant's failure to appear at
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated this 23rd day of January
/s/ Marco A. Hernandez
Marco A. Hernandez
United States District Judge
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