International Auto Logistics, LLC v. Vehicle Processing Center of Fayetteville, Inc. et al
ORDER granting 74 Motion for Attorneys' Fees; IAL's 73 Bill of Costs is taxed. Signed by Judge Lisa G. Wood on 7/5/2017. (ca)
^tateiei Bisitrtct Court
tor tl^e ^ontl^em IBisitrtct ot 4leorsia
Scott L. Poff, Clerk
United States District Court
By casbell at 9:03 am, Jul 05, 2017
INTERNATIONAL AUTO LOGISTICS,
VEHICLE PROCESSING CENTER OF
FAYETTEVILLE, INC.; BRETT
HARRIS; and BRETT HARRIS
victory and defeat are
hard to tell
See, e.g., Jean-Paul Sartre, The Devil & the Good Lord 4
(trans. Kitty Black 1960) (""A victory described in detail is
indistinguishable from a defeat."); Plutarch, The Life of Pyrrhus
417 (trans. Bernadotte Perrin 1920) (''If we are victorious in
one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined."
(quoting Pyrrhus of Epirus)).
But it was obvious who won and
Processing Center of Fayetteville, Inc. ("VPCF") "undisputedly
breached [a] Subcontract and there [wa]s no genuine factual
dispute" as to Plaintiff International Auto Logistics, LLC's
Dkt. No. 68 at 8.
For this reason, and
the others given below, lAL's bill of costs, dkt. no. 73, will
be TAXED to VPCF, and lAL's motion for attorneys' fees, dkt.
no. 74, will be GRANTED.
VPCF had a subcontract to run a
storage center for lAL, a government contractor.
Dkt. No. 68
VPCF violated labor laws and tried to cover that up.
lAL calculated what it owed VPCF as being just south of
Id. at 6.
VPCF responded by claiming that it was
lAL sought declaratory judgment as to what it owed VPCF
repeatedly informed VPCF that it was seeking attorneys' fees.
Dkt. No. 79 at 25 (extracting from Sept. 8, 2016 deposition),
32 (extracting from June 10, 2016 initial disclosures).
properly calculated how much it owed VPCF.
Id. at 13-19.
lAL moved for costs and attorneys' fees on May 30, 2017.
Dkt. Nos. 73-1, 74.
Both matters have been fully briefed and
are now ripe for disposition.
Dkt. Nos. 76, 78-79.
expenses of litigation
absence of a
not available to the prevailing
party's entitlement to
attorney fees under a contractual provision is determined by
(citation omitted); accord City Heights Condo. Ass'n, Inc. v.
Bambara, 788 S.E.2d 563 (Ga. Ct. App. 2016) (applying similar
rule in costs context); Dan J. Sheehan Co. v. McCrory Constr.
arbitrator appropriately considered ^'the contractual language
regarding . . . costs").
lAL is entitled to costs and fees.
VPCF objects on four
grounds: (1) lAL did not prevail; (2) there is no contractual
basis for awarding fees; (3) lAL never tendered any money to
VPCF; and (4) the fees request is not specific enough.
The remaining three are not much better and are
I. lAL WAS THE PREVAILING PARTY.
VPCF absurdly claims that it ''is entitled to attorney's
fees because it was the prevailing party."
Dkt. No. 76 at 6.
It goes so far as to promise that it "will seek an award of
Id. at 7.
This effort would be in vain.
materially alters the legal relationship between the parties
by modifying the defendant's behavior in a way that directly
benefits the plaintiff."
Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 111-
12 (1992) (interpreting 42 U.S.C. § 1988).
"In other words,
there must be: (1) a situation where a party has been awarded
court '"at least
claim"' or (2)
'judicial imprimatur on
Estate of Smalbein v. City of Daytona Beach, 353 F.3d 901, 905
U.S.C. § 1988)
Buckhannon Bd. & Care Home, Inc. v. W. Va. Dep't of Health &
U.S.C. §§ 3613(c)(2), 12205)); see
(1989) (interpreting 42 U.S.C. § 1988) (requiring only that
A declaratory judgment "will usually satisfy that
(interpreting 42 U.S.C. § 1988).
than that and ''took the position that it owed nothing."
No. 76 at 5; see also id. at 6 ("[TJhere was no relief granted
to [lAL] against [VPCF].").
"lAL had previously dismissed its
other claims against VPCF . . . ."
Id. at 7.
And "lAL could
have filed an interpleader action, but it did not."
Id. at 5.
declaratory judgment as to "the amount, if any, due to VPCF."
Dkt. No. 1 SI 23.
lAL alleged that it "calculated the amount
it determined to be due," but that VPCF rejected this amount
Id. SISI 13-14.
By summary judgment, lAL asked the Court to
decide that it owed $59,446.58—the amount the Court ultimately
Dkt. No. 46 at 16; Dkt. No. 68 at 19.
because lAL voluntarily reconsidered one of the offsets it had
Dkt. No. 44-3 SI 42.
On every issue that remained in
dispute, the Court sided with lAL.
It totally rejected VPCF's
claim that it was entitled to nearly 58 times more than lAL
alleged was due.
Dkt. No. 68 at 13-16.
As for lAL's dismissal of certain claims against VPCF, a
party prevails as long as it wins on any significant issue.
Tex. State Teachers Ass^n, 489 U.S. at 791-92.
that standard by a wide margin.
''lAL could have filed an interpleader action, but
it did not."
Dkt. No. 76 at 5.
This might be a belated
It might just be an inchoate thought.
Corp., 43 F.3d 587, 599 (11th Cir. 1995) (en banc) (^'There is
no burden upon the district court to distill every potential
argument that could be made based upon the materials before it
to formulate arguments
the onus is
interpleader is not a basis for finding that lAL failed to
Some unconventional vernacular meanings of ^'winning"
notwithstanding,^ lAL prevailed in this case.^
victorious.' . . . Charlie Sheen
verb win meant
had solidified a definition for the term
this: winning (v.):
ostensibly drug-induced, highly public flameout, during which one loses an
incredibly lucrative job and, subsequently, the respect of the American
people.' Or more, succinctly: winning (v.): losing." (emphasis added)).
^ As this was the only reason VPCF gave for opposing lAL's bill of costs,
see dkt. no. 78, those costs will be TAXED.
II. THE SUBCONTRACT AUTHORIZES A FEE AWARD.
authorize a fee award here.
This argument touches on genuine
difficulties posed by the subcontract, but is not ultimately
Subcontract section 26 has four paragraphs.
of taking 'Ma]ny controversy or
claim arising out of or relating to this Agreement, or the
breach thereof," to arbitration.
Dkt. No. 5 § 26.
specifies where such arbitration would happen.
says, ''Notwithstanding the foregoing, any Party may, at any
injunctive relief . . . to prevent irreparable harm."
The last provides:
"In any action initiated by either party
under this section, the prevailing party shall be entitled to
Clearly, this case was not arbitrated.
And, although lAL did
other defendants to prevent irreparable harm in the form of
harassing debt-collection efforts, no injunctive relief issued
Dkt. No. 1 at 10; Dkt. No. 49.
Nevertheless, the Court answers the above questions in
This case was literally ^^initiated" by lAL
Although a different outcome might have
been required had lAL lacked a good-faith basis for doing so,
it in fact had one—it did not know whether VPCF had authorized
But is lAL the prevailing party, even though it did not
prevail specifically as to enjoining VPCF?
two requirements, initiation and prevailing, are independent
of each other.
The last paragraph refers to ^'any action."
That means the parties intended for it to apply to a broader
suit that grew out of an effort to seek injunctive relief—like
"initiated" under section 26, rather than limiting fees to an
action resulting in relief mentioned therein.
also uses the term "prevailing party," without qualification.
Had the parties meant to narrow this to a party who
received injunctive relief against the other, they could have
Turning from text to context, the last paragraph is
physically separate from the third.
Under section 26, then,
seeking injunctive relief under the third paragraph opened the
door to a
broader case, the
authorized by the last paragraph to seek costs and fees.
subcontract lets lAL recover fees here.
III. TENDER IS IRRELEVANT.
VPCF says lAL cannot obtain attorneys' fees because it
''failed to tender what it admitted it owed when it terminated
according to VPCF, happened because lAL tried to "force VPCF
litigation, lAL offered VPCF $56,446.58.
VPCF rejected that.
Id. 5 38.
Dkt. No. 44-3 5 36.
Four days after filing suit,
lAL offered VPCF "$112,000.00 (twice the amount [lAL] believed
to be owed)."
Id. 5 41.
VPCF rejected that, too.
reason why became clear in litigation:
entitlement to $3,144,450.70.
VPCF insisted on its
Dkt. No. 68 at 6.
VPCF waged legal war on lAL for a year and a half based
on a contractual interpretation this Court deemed "patently"
Id. at 16.
For it to now
strong-arm it boggles the mind.
cast lAL as trying to
lAL's supposed failure of
tender is no reason to withhold attorneys' fees.
IV. THE FEES REQUEST IS SPECIFIC ENOUGH.
supported by records "address[ing] the issue of what alleged
"[f]ees relating to issues which were not decided in favor of
the party seeking attorney's fees should be excluded."
No. 76 at 7.
This is yet another mischaracterization.
individual issues and segregated out the claims on which lAL
Dkt. No. 74 at 17, 89-98.
lAL made reasonable,
generally 50% reductions to the amount of time it spent on
issues relating to the complaint to reflect the fact that the
complaint concerned both VPCF and other defendants.
reviewed it and found it appropriate given prevailing market
rates, ""the type of litigation at issue," and the skill and
Kenworth of Dothan, Inc., 117 F. Supp. 2d 1247, 1258-59 (M.D.
VPCF's final contention therefore fails.
For the reasons above, lAL's bill of costs, dkt. no. 73-
1, is TAXED to VPCF in the amount of $3052.80, and its Motion
for Award of Attorneys' Fees, dkt. no. 74, is GRANTED in the
combined costs and fees.
so ORDERED, this 5th day of July, 2017.
HOlt: LISA GODBEY WOOD, JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
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