Wells Fargo Bank, National Association v. Blount et al
OPINION AND ORDER that it is the ORDER, JUDGMENT and DECREE of the court as follows: (1) plf Wells Fargo Bank's 40 MOTION to Amend 40 Judgment is granted; (2) defendant William B. Blount is to pay $ 7,825.50 in fees and costs associated with plaintiff Wells Fargo Banks attempts to collect on the promissory note and the subsequent creation of the loan modification agreement; (3) In addition to the $ 7,825.50 detailed above,defendant Blount is to pay $ 10,435.58 in fees and costs associated with this litigation; That total is comprised of $ 10,000 in attorneys fees and $ 435.58 in legal costs. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on 4/3/12. (Attachments: # 1 civil appeals checklist)(djy, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, NORTHERN DIVISION
WELLS FARGO BANK, NATIONAL )
WILLIAM B. BLOUNT,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Wells Fargo Bank filed this breach-ofcontract action against defendant William B. Blount,
alleging that Blount defaulted on a $ 300,000 loan.
reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs that it incurred
pursuing this action.
Currently before the court is
judgment to include a specific amount of attorneys’ fees
For the reasons that follow, the court will
modify its judgment and award $ 18,261 in fees and costs
to Wells Fargo.
Blount’s default on a promissory note and subsequent
Wells Fargo filed a five-page
complaint on April 18, 2011.
No discovery took place,
Blount’s cursory reply to that motion admitted
liability and consented to this court awarding damages,
including $ 121,641.08 in principal plus interest and the
reasonable costs of collection, to Wells Fargo.
Fargo subsequently submitted a four-page reply asking
this court to enter judgment in its favor without delay.
That request was granted and judgment was entered in
favor of Wells Fargo on January 27, 2012.
In its motion to amend that judgment, Wells Fargo
submits that it accrued legal fees totaling $ 25,999.92
and court costs of $ 441.58, for a total of $ 26,441.50.
Approximately one quarter of that total, or $ 7,825.50,
$ 18,616.00, is attributed to this litigation.1
$ 18,616.00 is at issue.
In calculating attorneys’ fees, the court is required
to determine the “lodestar” figure or “the product of the
number of hours reasonably expended to prosecute the
1. Blount did not specifically challenge the fee
amount that Wells Fargo attributes to his default on the
promissory note and the subsequent creation of the
Instead, he requested only a
more definite statement as to how the amount was
calculated. Wells Fargo provided such documentation and
Blount raised no further challenge.
Wells Fargo’s submissions, the court does not find
$ 7,825.50 to be an unreasonable amount for the work
provided, which included the drafting and negotiation of
the modification agreement.
lawsuit and the reasonable hourly rate for work performed
Simpleville Music v. Mizell, 511 F. Supp. 2d 1158, 1161
(M.D. Ala. 2007) (Thompson, J.) (citing Norman v. Hous.
Auth. of Montgomery, 836 F.2d 1292, 1299 (11th Cir.
In determining the lodestar, the court applies
the 12-factor test set forth in Johnson v. Ga. Highway
Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974)
(abrogated on other grounds by Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489
U.S. 87 (1989)),2 and then proceeds to analyze “whether
any portion of this fee should be adjusted upwards or
Simpleville Music, 511 F. Supp. 2d at 1161
(citing Johnson, 488 F.2d at 717-19).3
2. In Bonner v. Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th
Cir. 1981) (en banc), the Eleventh Circuit Court of
Appeals adopted as binding precedent all of the decisions
of the former Fifth Circuit handed down prior to the
close of business on September 30, 1981.
3. These 12 factors are: (1) the time and labor
required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the
questions; (3) the skill required to perform the legal
The fee applicant bears the burden of “establishing
entitlement and documenting the appropriate hours and
Id. at 1162 (quoting Norman, 836 F.2d at
The applicant may meet this burden by producing
either direct evidence of the rates charged under similar
circumstances or by opinion evidence as to the reasonable
However, the court “is itself an expert on [this
issue] and may consider its own knowledge and experience
concerning reasonable and proper fees and may form an
independent judgment ... as to value.”
Norman, 836 F.2d
at 1303 (internal quotation marks omitted).
services properly; (4) the preclusion of other employment
by the attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5) the
customary fee in the community; (6) whether the fee is
fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by the
client or circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the
results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and
ability of the attorneys; (10) the “undesirability” of
the case; (11) the nature and length of the professional
relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar
cases. Johnson, 488 F.2d at 717-19.
The court is somewhat surprised that neither party
Southern Boys Investment Group, LLC, 2011 WL 2446594
(M.D. Fla. May 26, 2011) (Richardson, M.J.), adopted by
2011 WL 2436062 (M.D. Fla. June 15, 2011) (Dalton, J.),
which considered the appropriate amount of attorneys’
fees in a materially similar dispute between Wells Fargo
and a debtor.
In that case, Wells Fargo, which was
represented by the same firm and, indeed, some of the
same lawyers representing it in this court, requested
The court noted that Wells Fargo failed to
explain its fee request in terms of the Johnson factors
attorneys’ fee award.”
Id. at *4.
Since “the Defendants
“absent special circumstances and without any evidence as
to the Johnson factors, a fee over $ 10,000.00 would not
Longstreet, 2010 WL 331901, at *4 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 28,
2010) (Antoon, J.) (holding that attorneys’ fees should
be limited to $ 10,000 in a simple contract dispute where
awarded Wells Fargo $ 10,000 in legal fees and $ 2,715.02
A similar approach is warranted in this case.
Southern Boys Investment Group, this is a straightforward
breach-of-contract claim in which there was no discovery,
The court can therefore see no reason why
attorney’s fees related to this litigation should exceed
$ 10,000, and Wells Fargo has submitted no documentation
that would justify a higher award.
Blount, in his response to Wells Fargo’s motion to
amend the judgment, made precisely this point when he
stated that “without an itemization of time and expenses,
it is impossible to determine if the requested time and
expenses are reasonable and necessary.”
(Doc. No. 42) at 2.
Opp’n to Fees
In its reply to that brief, Wells
Fargo again failed to provide any itemized justification
for its expenses.
Moreover, it has failed to explain
whether this case was any more novel or difficult than
other similar cases; the customary fee for similar work;
or anything else about this case that might justify an
award significantly higher than the one it received in
(identifying factors this court should consider when
determining an appropriate fee).
The court therefore
concludes, based on its own experiences handling similar
disputes, that, while Blount is liable for the reasonable
attorneys’ fees associated with this litigation, he is
not liable for the full amount requested by Wells Fargo.
It is therefore the ORDER, JUDGMENT, and DECREE of
the court as follows:
(1) Plaintiff Wells Fargo Bank’s motion to amend
judgment (doc. no. 40) is granted.
(2) Defendant William B. Blount is to pay $ 7,825.50
in fees and costs associated with plaintiff Wells Fargo
Bank’s attempts to collect on the promissory note and the
subsequent creation of the loan modification agreement.
(3) In addition to the $ 7,825.50 detailed above,
defendant Blount is to pay $ 10,435.58 in fees and costs
associated with this litigation.
That total is comprised
of $ 10,000 in attorneys’ fees and $ 435.58 in legal
DONE, this the 3rd day of April, 2012.
/s/ Myron H. Thompson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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