Ringcentral, Inc. v. Quimby et al

Filing 81

ORDER RE ATTORNEY FEES. Signed by Judge Richard Seeborg on 5/27/11. (cl, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/27/2011)

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**E-filed 5/27 /2011** 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 SAN FRANCISCO DIVISION 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 12 RINGCENTRAL, INC., Plaintiff, v. No. C 09-2693 RS ORDER RE ATTORNEY FEES 13 14 BILL QUIMBY, et al., 15 Defendants. ____________________________________/ 16 17 18 By order entered April 18, 2011, the default judgment against defendants was vacated on the 19 condition that plaintiff recover the attorney fees it incurred in obtaining that judgment. Under the 20 default judgment, plaintiff had been awarded $32,096.50 in attorney fees it incurred bringing this 21 action and obtaining judgment. The April 18th order directed plaintiff to submit a revised fee 22 request, limited to the fees incurred specifically in connection with the motion for default judgment. 23 Plaintiff’s revised fee application seeks fees in the amount of $14,637, and is supported by a 24 declaration of counsel describing the tasks performed in connection with obtaining the default 25 judgment, and asserting that upon careful review of the billing records, counsel has determined that 26 69.7 hours of attorney time were expended, at an hourly rate of $210. Defendants’ response to the 27 revised fee application states that they do not oppose the recovery of fees “in concept.” Defendants 28 complain, however, that plaintiff has provided inadequate information to evaluate the fee request. 1 Defendants argue that because it is plaintiff’s burden to establish the amount of fees reasonably 2 incurred in obtaining default judgment, the motion should be denied, or at a minimum plaintiff 3 should provide more information, to which defendants would then respond. 4 In connection with the motion for default judgment, the magistrate judge required plaintiff to 5 submit a supplemental declaration and time records to support its fee request. After reviewing those 6 materials, the magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation that the fees then requested 7 were reasonable, a conclusion the Court adopted. Accordingly, there is little difficulty in 8 concluding now that plaintiff’s claimed hourly rate remains reasonable, and that the billing practices 9 generally were appropriate. The more difficult task, however, is discerning what portion of the total attorney time invested in the action is reasonably ascribable to obtaining the default judgment, the 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 expense of which is appropriately shifted to defendants. 12 Even assuming it would not be an abuse of discretion to deny plaintiff any fee recovery on 13 grounds that it did not meet its burden, the circumstances do not warrant such a result. Nor would it 14 be appropriate to require the parties to expend further fees in resolving this issue. Given the reality 15 of the expense of preparing briefing and court appearances, defendants would be unable to establish 16 that the reasonable cost of obtaining default judgment was less than a sum in the range of several 17 thousand dollars, even if they had more detailed information as to plaintiff’s claim. The dollar 18 amount potentially subject to legitimate dispute, therefore, would be no more than a few thousand 19 dollars, a sum that quickly could be eclipsed by the cost of further briefing. 20 Accordingly, the Court has reviewed the time records previously submitted and considered 21 the record as to the briefing that plaintiff filed, and the court appearances that were required, in 22 pursuit of the default judgment. It is apparent that a significant amount of attorney time was 23 incurred in an attempt to obtain lost profit damages, an effort that did not succeed. In fee-shifting 24 circumstances, it generally is appropriate to consider the degree to which the party claiming fees 25 achieved success. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 440 (1983). Here, while some reduction 26 is appropriate given that the lost profit claim was not part of the judgment plaintiff was able to 27 obtain, it is not unfair for defendants to bear costs incurred even in pursuing unsuccessful theories, 28 2 1 because but for their disregard of their legal obligations, plaintiff would not have been put to the 2 task of trying to prove actual damages in the default context in the first instance. 3 Under all the circumstances, it is reasonable to shift to defendants the expense of 45 hours of 4 attorney time, at $210 per hour, incurred by plaintiff in obtaining the default judgment. 5 Accordingly, defendants shall pay to plaintiff the total sum of $9450, to be made in three equal 6 payments of $3150 each, beginning no later than July 1, 2011 and continuing monthly thereafter. 7 8 9 IT IS SO ORDERED. 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 12 13 Dated: 5/27/11 RICHARD SEEBORG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3

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