Lopez v. Suncor Energy (U.S.A.) Inc. et al
ORDER. Defendants Motion for Reasonable Expenses 71 is GRANTED. Defendants are awarded their reasonable expenses, including attorneys fees, in the amount of $9,986.60. The award is against the plaintiffs counsel and not the plaintiff. The monetary sanction shall be satisfied in full no later than 4/5/2012. By Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland on 3/5/2012.(sah, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland
Civil Action No. 11-cv-00081-LTB-BNB
BRENDA M. LOPEZ,
SUNCOR ENERGY (U.S.A.) INC., a Delaware corporation, and
SUNCOR ENERGY SERVICES INC.,
This matter arises on the Defendants’ Motion for Reasonable Expenses [Doc. # 71,
filed 2/14/2012] (the “Motion”). The Motion is GRANTED as specified below, and the
defendants are awarded their reasonable expenses, including attorneys’ fees, incurred in making
the Motion for Protective Order [Doc. # 58] in the amount of $9,986.60.
I previously granted the defendants’ Motion for Protective Order in its entirety and
quashed the plaintiff’s Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notices. Order [Doc. # 65]. In doing so, I noted
that the Rule 30(b)(6) notices were “blatantly improper,” Transcript of Proceedings [Doc. # 74]
(“Trans.”) at p. 24 lines 5-7; that plaintiff’s counsel had taken unreasonable positions on
discovery matters in an improper attempt to obtain priority of discovery, id. at p. 23 line 22
through p. 24 line 4; and that plaintiff’s counsel had failed to heed my earlier warning that in
ruling on discovery disputes I was likely to award attorneys’ fees and costs to the prevailing
party. Order [Doc. # 57] at pp. 1-2.
Rule 26(c)(3), Fed. R. Civ. P., compels the award of reasonable expenses and attorneys’
fees incurred in making a motion for protective order if (i) the movant made a good faith attempt
to resolve the matter before seeking court intervention; (ii) the opposing party’s position is not
substantially justified; and (iii) making the award is not unjust. I previously reviewed these
factors and found that an award was appropriate against plaintiff’s counsel. Trans. [Doc. # 74] at
p. 28 lines 1-24; Order [Doc. # 65] at pp. 1-2.
The Motion includes a detailed description of the services rendered, the amount of time
spent, the hourly rates charged, the total amount claimed, and defense counsels’ qualifications
and experience, all as required by D.C.COLO.LCivR 54.3.
In calculating reasonable attorneys’ fee, I apply the lodestar principles stated in Robinson
v. City of Edmond, 160 F.3d 1275, 1281 (10th Cir. 1998). “The lodestar calculation is the
product of the number of attorney hours reasonably expended and a reasonably hourly rate.”
Id.(internal quotations and citation omitted).
Reasonable Time Expended
The first step in calculating a fee award is to determine the number of hours reasonably
spent by counsel for the party seeking the fees. The burden of proof lies with the prevailing
party seeking fees. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983).
The defendants’ Motion differentiates between the hours spent in opposing the Rule
30(b)(6) depositions and the hours spent seeking to recover their expenses and fees. The
defendants seek recovery for 45.1 hours in opposing the discovery and 7.1 hours in seeking their
expenses and fees.
Plaintiff’s counsel disputes the reasonableness of the hours claimed, arguing first that the
defendants did “not adequately confer prior to filing their motion for protective order. . . .”
Response [Doc. # 76] at p. 2. I previously found that the defendants made substantial efforts to
resolve the dispute prior to filing the Motion for Protective Order, but those efforts were
“rebuffed by [plaintiff’s] refusal to confer about the issue at hand until there had been an
acquiescence as to the date of the depositions” and that “[a]ny failure in the conferral process
[was] entirely the fault of plaintiff’s counsel.” Trans. [Doc. # 74]] at p. 28 lines 10-19.
Plaintiff’s counsel emphasizes that there was a “47-day delay in Defendants’ counsel’s first
attempt to confer. . . .” Response [Doc. # 76] at p. 1. Even accepting that as true, defendants’
counsel initiated a Rule 7.1A conference no later than December 23, 2011. Thereafter, the
evidence establishes that defense counsel communicated with plaintiff’s counsel on several
occasions and sent detailed letters, specifying the defendants’ objections to the Rule 30(b)(6)
notices and citing legal authority in support of their position. Motion for Protective Order at
Exhs. C and D [Docs. ## 58-3 and 58-4]. Those efforts notwithstanding, plaintiff’s counsel
refused to address the substance of her deposition notices until the defendants first agreed on
alternative deposition dates, Response at Exh. C [Doc. # 61-5] at p. 2 of 7, and plaintiff’s counsel
never agreed to modify her blatantly improper notices. There is no reason to believe the
defendant would have achieved any greater success by undertaking immediate negotiations
about the notices.
Plaintiff’s counsel also complains that the total number of hours claimed is excessive and
includes duplicative billing by multiple timekeepers. I agree. After careful review, I will allow
the following hours as reasonably necessary to obtain a protective order quashing the Rule
30(b)(6) deposition notices and recovering the award of expenses and fees:
Hrs. Opposing Rule
Hrs. Seeking Expenses
Reasonable Hourly Rate
The defendants claim attorneys’ fees at the following rates:
The defendants bear the burden of establishing that the rates are reasonable. Guides, Ltd.
v. Yarmouth Group Property Mgmt., Inc., 295 F.3d 1065, 1078 (10th Cir. 2002). “A reasonable
rate is the prevailing market rate in the relevant community.” Id. A court may use its own
knowledge of the prevailing market rate to determine whether the claimed rate is reasonable. Id.
at 1079. See Praseuth v. Rubbermaid, Inc., 406 F.3d 1245, 1259 (10th Cir. 2005)(approving the
district court’s determination of the applicable hourly rate by “relying on its knowledge of rates
of lawyers with comparable skill and experience practicing”in the relevant market).
Mr. Barnes is a shareholder in the litigation department at Brownstein Hyatt Farber
Schreck with nearly 19 years experience. Ms. Klopman also is a shareholder, with more than ten
years experience and an expertise in defending employment discrimination cases. Mr. Hoke is
an associate in the litigation department with five years experience, and Ms. Wells is an
associate with less than one year of experience. I am aware that it is not unusual for
sophisticated law firms in the Denver market, like Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, to bill
beginning associates at $200.00 per hour and seasoned shareholders with substantial experience
at $400.00 per hour or more. I find that the rates charged here by the various attorneys are
within the prevailing market rates in the metropolitan Denver legal market.
Multiplying the number of hours reasonably incurred by the reasonable hourly rates
charged by defendants’ counsel results in an award of attorneys’ fees of $9,359.10.
The defendants also seek expenses of $627.50 for computerized legal research. The
expense was necessarily incurred and is reasonable.
I find that the defendants reasonably incurred expenses, including attorneys’ fees, of
$9,986.60 to obtain an order quashing the plaintiff’s improper Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notices
and an award of the fees and costs associated with obtaining the protective order.
IT IS ORDERED:
The Motion [Doc. # 71] is GRANTED as specified;
Defendants are awarded their reasonable expenses, including attorneys’ fees, in
the amount of $9,986.60;
The award is against the plaintiff’s counsel and not the plaintiff; and
The monetary sanction shall be satisfied in full no later than April 5, 2012.
Dated March 5, 2012.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Boyd N. Boland
United States Magistrate Judge
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