Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Humphrey Lumber Corporation et al
OPINION AND ORDER: it is therefore the ORDER, JUDGMENT, and DECREE of the court as follows: (1) Plf Wells Fargo Bank's 18 Motion to Amend Judgment is granted; (2) Dfts Humphrey Lumber Corporation and Steven J. Humphrey, jointly and severally, are to pay $ 14,290.73 in fees and costs associated with this litigation. That total is comprised of $ 10,000 in attorneys' fees and $ 4,290.73 in costs. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on 4/4/2012. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Appeals Checklist) (wcl, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, NORTHERN DIVISION
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.,
CORPORATION and STEVEN J.
CIVIL ACTION NO.
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Wells Fargo Bank filed this lawsuit against
defendants Humphrey Lumber Corporation and Steven J.
Humphrey (collectively, Humphrey) seeking collection on
a note and guaranty.
The court granted summary judgment
for Wells Fargo and ordered Humphrey to pay damages,
interest, and the reasonable expenses actually incurred
by Wells Fargo in enforcing its rights under the note and
Now before the court is Wells Fargo’s motion
to amend that judgment to incorporate a specific finding
as to the reasonable amount of attorneys’ fees and costs.
For the following reasons, that motion will be granted,
and Humphrey will be ordered to pay $ 14,290.73 in legal
fees and costs to Wells Fargo.
This straightforward action arose from Humphrey’s
default on a promissory note.
complaint on July 20, 2011.
Wells Fargo filed its
No substantial discovery
On November 4, 2011, Wells Fargo moved for
motion admitted liability and “some indebtedness to Wells
Fargo,” Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. (Doc. No. 15) at 1,
On December 8, 2011, this court granted summary
judgment for Wells Fargo and ordered Humphrey to pay,
among other things, the reasonable expenses Wells Fargo
evidentiary submission in support of its motion to amend
that judgment, Wells Fargo submits that it accrued legal
fees totaling $ 10,797.00 and costs totaling $ 4,290.73,
for a total of $ 15,087.73.1
Humphrey responded to that
motion by attacking the sufficiency of Wells Fargo’s
inadequacies prevented him from making “a meaningful
response” to the motion.
Defs.’ Resp. in Opp’n to Pl.’s
Mot. to Amend (Doc. No. 20) at 2.
Wells Fargo then
provided additional evidentiary support for its motion to
which Humphrey has not responded.
In calculating attorneys’ fees, the court should
determine the “lodestar” figure or “the product of the
inconsistencies and errors in arithmetic, this total is
the court’s best guess of what Wells Fargo actually
believes to be the total costs of collection. Regardless
of the actual amount sought, the court has done its own
calculation of the appropriate fee award in this case and
therefore those errors (and the possibility that this
court has misidentified the actual amount sought) are
number of hours reasonably expended to prosecute the
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.
These 12 factors are: (1) the time and labor
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).
required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the
questions; (3) the skill required to perform the legal
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.
This case is one of many similar disputes where Wells
Fargo seeks the reasonable costs of collection on what
reasonable fees and costs, the court finds persuasive,
both for its reasoning and for its ability to bring
predictability and consistency to the resolution of these
motions, the approach highlighted in Wells Fargo Bank,
N.A. v. 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)
In Southern Boys Investment, Wells Fargo,
which was represented by the same firm and, indeed, some
requested $ 16,836.00 in attorneys’ fees and $ 2,715.02
in expenses for work materially similar to that which was
undertaken in this case.
The court noted that Wells
Fargo failed to explain its fee request in terms of the
Johnson factors and therefore “used its own judgment
regarding the attorneys’ fee award.”
Id. at *4.
hearings, and no discovery was conducted,” the court
concluded that, “absent special circumstances and without
any evidence as to the Johnson factors, a fee over
Textron Fin. Corp. v. 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 the plaintiff failed to provide
the court with an itemization of the tasks performed)).
It therefore awarded Wells Fargo $ 10,000 in legal fees
and $ 2,715.02 in expenses.
A similar approach is warranted in this case.
Johnson, 488 F.2d at 719 (encouraging courts to consider
awards in similar cases when setting attorneys’ fees).
As in Southern Boys Investment, this is a straightforward
breach-of-contract claim in which there was little or no
discovery conducted, no hearings held, and no substantive
disagreement about liability.
The court can therefore
litigation should exceed $ 10,000, and Wells Fargo has
submitted no documentation that would justify a higher
Moreover, Wells Fargo has failed to explain
whether this case was any more novel or difficult than
other similar cases in which it received only $ 10,000 in
attorneys’ fees; what the customary fee for similar work
would be; or anything else about this case that might
justify an award higher than the one it received in
Id. at 717-19 (identifying
Southern Boys Investment.
factors this court should consider when determining an
The court therefore concludes, based
on its own experiences handling similar disputes, that,
while Humphrey is liable for the reasonable attorneys’
fees associated with this litigation, Humphrey is not
liable for the full amount requested by Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo v. Blount, No. 11cv296, (M.D. Ala. Apr. 3,
2012) (Thompson, J.) (limiting fees in a similar case to
Put simply: it would be unreasonable for
those fees to exceed $ 10,000.
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. 18) is granted.
(2) Defendants Humphrey Lumber Corporation and Steven
That total is comprised of $ 10,000 in
attorneys’ fees and $ 4,290.73 in costs.
DONE, this the 4th day of April, 2012.
/s/ Myron H. Thompson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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