Lethiot v. Werner Shipping Company et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER signed by Magistrate Judge Colin H. Lindsay on 9/13/2017. Family Dollar's 103 response in opposition to Plaintiff's itemization of fees and expenses is SUSTAINED and JB Hunt's 104 response in oppositio n to Plaintiff's itemization of fees and expenses is OVERRULED IN PART and SUSTAINED IN PART. Family Dollar and JB Hunt SHALL REIMBURSE Plaintiff in the amount of $3,269.45. Family Dollar and JB Hunt SHALL EACH BE RESPONSIBLE FOR HALF of that award. Payment SHALL be made by 9/22/2017. cc: Counsel (RLK)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:14-CV-488-CRS
JB HUNT SHIPPING, a/k/a J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on a request for attorney’s fees by Plaintiff Shad Lethiot
The Court ordered Defendant JB Hunt Shipping (“JB Hunt”) and Intervenor
Plaintiff Family Dollar Stores, Inc. (“Family Dollar”) to reimburse Lethiot for his reasonable
expenses, including attorney’s fees, incurred in relation to a settlement conference set for March
9, 2017. (See generally DN 95.) Lethiot filed an itemization of fees and expenses (DN 97). JB
Hunt and Family Dollar each filed responses opposing, in part, the amount requested by Lethiot.
(See DN 103 (Family Dollar’s response); DN 104 (JB Hunt’s response).) For the following
reasons, the Court sustains Family Dollar’s response and overrules in part and sustains in part JB
Hunt’s response to Lethiot’s request for reimbursement. Further, the Court orders Family Dollar
and JB Hunt to reimburse Lethiot in the amount of $3,269.45, with each party responsible for
half of that amount.
On July 18, 2017, the Court ordered JB Hunt and Family Dollar to reimburse Lethiot for
his attorney’s fees and costs incurred in relation to the settlement conference set for March 9,
2017. (DN 95.) Specifically, in a memorandum opinion and order (DN 95) on Lethiot’s motion
for sanctions (DN 80), the Court found that both JB Hunt and Family Dollar violated the order
for settlement conference (DN 66). As a result of these violations of a Court order, the Court
cancelled and rescheduled the March 9, 2017 settlement conference. The Court ordered Lethiot
to file an itemization reflecting his attorney’s fees, costs, and expenses, including Lethiot’s travel
expenses, incurred in preparation for the settlement conference, the events of March 9, 2017, and
the preparation of his motion for sanctions and reply to JB Hunt’s response thereto. (DN 95 at
27.) The Court ordered JB Hunt and Family Dollar to reimburse Lethiot for the fees and
expenses set forth in the itemization, with each party responsible for half of the total amount.
(DN 95 at 27-28.) The Court stated that JB Hunt and/or Family Dollar may file objections as to
the reasonableness of the amount sought by Lethiot, and that if either party filed such an
objection, the deadline for reimbursement would be stayed pending resolution of the objections.
(Id. at 28.) On July 25, 2017, the Court conducted a settlement conference in this case. That
conference led to a resolution of all claims, with the exception of an attorney’s lien asserted by
Lethiot’s former counsel. At the time of entry of the instant memorandum opinion and order, the
parties are working together to finalize the terms of their agreement (see, e.g., DN 108, 111).
Lethiot timely submitted his itemization of fees (DN 97). He sets forth a list of fifteen
entries for attorney work comprising 31.3 hours, at a rate of $200 per hour, for a total of $6,260
in attorney’s fees, as well as $769.45 for Lethiot’s travel expenses. (Id.)
JB Hunt and Family Dollar filed timely responses in opposition (DN 103, 104.) Family
Dollar objects to reimbursing Lethiot for any activities that “did not need to be replicated for the
second settlement conference [conducted in this case on July 25, 2017], or would have been
reasonably undertaken despite the failure of the first conference.” (DN 103 at 2.) For this
reason, Family Dollar objects to a total of 18.8 hours of attorney work identified in Lethiot’s
itemization, which, at an hourly rate of $200, amounts to a total of $3,760. (Id.) For example,
Family Dollar argues that time spent drafting Lethiot’s confidential settlement statement and
creating a PowerPoint presentation should not be included in the reimbursement amount because
Lethiot’s counsel used the settlement statement and PowerPoint presentation in relation to the
July settlement conference.
Accordingly, Family Dollar asks that the Court reduce the
reimbursement amount from the $6,260 that Lethiot seeks for attorney’s fees to $2,500.1
In its response in opposition, JB Hunt adopts the arguments set forth in Family Dollar’s
response. (See DN 104 at 2.) In the alternative, JB Hunt asks the Court to reduce the award
based on certain entries as to which, it argues, Lethiot’s counsel’s time was unjustified under the
circumstances of this case. For example, JB Hunt argues that it was unreasonable for Lethiot’s
attorney to have spent 6.6 hours preparing the confidential settlement statement because the
facts, medical expenses, and other alleged damages were established in the initial worker’s
compensation action and because there was little in the way of settlement discussions before the
March 9, 2017 settlement conference date. (Id. at 2 (looking to Court’s required topics for
confidential settlement statement).) It also argues that it was unreasonable for Lethiot’s counsel
to spend 9.8 hours to prepare a PowerPoint presentation, stating that this amount of time was
excessive, repetitive, and unnecessary. (Id.) JB Hunt asks the Court to reduce by half the
amount of time for reimbursement for preparation of the settlement statement and to disallow the
fees for creation of the PowerPoint presentation. Accordingly, JB Hunt requests that the Court
reduce the requested attorney’s fee amount, $6,260, by the amount requested by Family Dollar,
or in the alternative, by $2,620 ($660 for half of the time spent preparing the settlement
statement, and $1,960 for the time spent preparing the PowerPoint presentation).2
Neither JB Hunt nor Family Dollar expressly objects to Lethiot’s travel expenses.
Additionally, neither Family Dollar nor JB Hunt questions Lethiot’s counsel’s hourly rate.
Finally, neither party cites any authority in support of their argument that Lethiot should not be
reimbursed for work that they contend was necessary in relation to the July 25, 2017 settlement
“As the party applying for attorney’s fees, [Lethiot] has the burden of showing [that he is]
entitled to such an award by documenting the appropriate time spent on the matter in addition to
hourly rates.” Clear Cast Group, Inc. v. Ritrama, Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91188, *2 (N.D.
Ohio July 2, 2012) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)) (additional citations
omitted). “Such a requirement does not require the party to show exactly how each minute was
spent, however the general subject matter should be contained in counsel’s time sheets.” Id. at
*2-3. The accepted method of calculating attorney’s fees is known as the “Lodestar method.” J
& J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Cole’s Place, Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 153137, *14 (W.D. Ky.
Nov. 28, 2011) (citations omitted).
The Lodestar method requires that the “hours reasonably
expended by counsel are multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate commensurate with that fee rate
imposed in the local legal community by counsel of similar experience.” Id. (citations omitted).
As the party seeking reimbursement of attorney’s fees, Lethiot has the burden of showing
that his counsel’s hourly rate is reasonable. See Holly v. UPS Supply Chain Solutions, Inc., 2015
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65614, *15 (W.D. Ky. May 19, 2015) (citations omitted). Lethiot seeks
reimbursement of $6,260, for 31.3 hours of work at a rate of $200 per hour, all performed by
attorney Coy Travis. (DN 97.) Case law from the Sixth Circuit and district courts within it,
including this Court, strongly favors submission of affidavits from counsel and counsel’s peers in
the local legal community in support of the hourly rate requested. See, e.g., Briscoe v. Preferred
Health Plan, Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50807, *39-40 (W.D. Ky. Feb. 11, 2010) (noting that
Eastern District of Kentucky “has observed that submitting affidavits is the best way to establish
the reasonableness of a rate”) (quotation omitted) (rev’d on other grounds, 2010 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 36079 (W.D. Ky. Apr. 7, 2010)). In this case, Travis did not provide any support, by
affidavit or citations to legal authority, for his requested rate of $200 per hour. (See generally
It is worth noting that neither Family Dollar nor JB Hunt challenged the requested rate.
Moreover, based on the Court’s familiarity with this case, decisions on attorney’s fees from this
district over the last several years, and the Court’s own knowledge of and experience with the
local legal market, the Court finds that Travis’s requested hourly rate of $200 is reasonable.
Travis is the lead counsel in this case, a role that he has held since November 2016. (See DN 65
(Travis’s notice of appearance).) This case involves three parties and stems from allegedly
lifelong injuries suffered by Travis’s client, Lethiot. It requires an understanding of multiple
areas of the law.
The Court is satisfied that Travis has provided Lethiot with competent
representation and was well prepared for both the original settlement conference date in March
2017 and the rescheduled date in July 2017. Accordingly, the Court concludes that the requested
hourly rate of $200 is reasonable.
The Court will now address the reasonableness of the amount sought by Lethiot. To
begin, the Court finds that Lethiot has provided sufficient basis for reimbursement of his
personal expenses incurred in relation to the March 9, 2017 settlement conference. Moreover,
Family Dollar and JB Hunt do not object to that amount. Accordingly, the Court concludes that
Lethiot is entitled to reimbursement in the amount of $769.45 in relation to his personal
The Court will reduce the amount of attorney’s fees sought by Lethiot’s counsel, Travis,
from $6,260 to $2,500. The Court arrived at this amount largely for the same reason suggested
by Family Dollar and adopted by JB Hunt. Again noting that neither Family Dollar nor JB Hunt
cited any authority for the proposition that Lethiot’s counsel should not be reimbursed for work
that was later put to use in relation to the July 25, 2017 settlement conference, the Court agrees
that this reasoning is appealing from a logical and fair-minded perspective. Rule 16(f), which
was the basis for the sanctions imposed against Family Dollar and JB Hunt (see DN 95 at 12-13),
provides further guidance. The Rule states that, “[i]nstead of or in addition to any other sanction,
the court must order the party, its attorney, or both to pay the reasonable expenses -- including
attorney’s fees -- incurred because of any noncompliance with this rule, unless the
noncompliance was substantially justified or other circumstances make an award of expenses
Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(f)(2) (emphasis added).
Under the particular circumstances
presented here, the Court finds that it would be unjust to require Family Dollar and JB Hunt to
reimburse Lethiot for work performed by his attorney prior to the March 9, 2017 settlement
conference where such work was not causally related to the violations of the settlement
conference order and was put to use in relation to the July 25, 2017 settlement conference. The
latter conference proved successful, and the Court attributes that success in part to the
preparedness of Lethiot’s counsel.
In other words, his work before the March settlement
conference date did not go to waste.
Additionally, the Court looks to recent language by the Supreme Court in Goodyear Tire
& Rubber Co. v. Haeger, 137 S. Ct. 1178 (2017). The Court notes that in this case, it imposed
sanctions pursuant to Rule 16(f), in conjunction with Rule 37(b)(2), whereas in Haeger, the
Supreme Court looked at sanctions imposed pursuant to courts’ inherent power. While these
circumstances are certainly different, the Court finds that the Supreme Court’s reasoning in
Haeger is instructive in this case. The Court emphasized that “such a sanction, when imposed
pursuant to civil procedures, must be compensatory rather than punitive in nature.” Id. at 1186
(citing Mine Workers v. Bagwell, 512 U.S. 821, 826-30 (1994)); see id. (“[T]he fee award may
go no further than to redress the wronged party ‘for losses sustained’; it may not impose an
additional amount as punishment for the sanctioned party’s misbehavior.”) (citing Mine Workers,
512 U.S. at 826 (internal citation omitted)). The Supreme Court went on to state, “[t]hat means,
pretty much by definition, that the court can shift only those attorney’s fees incurred because of
the misconduct at issue.” Id. at 1186. This requires the existence of a “causal connection”
between the bad-faith acts and the damages that they cause. Id. In a footnote, the Court also
recognized that “[r]ule-based and statutory regimes similarly require courts to find such a causal
connection before shifting fees.” Id. at 1186 n.5 (“For example, the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure provide that a district court may order a party to pay attorney’s fees ‘caused by’
discovery misconduct, Rule 37(b)(2)(C), or ‘directly resulting from’ misrepresentations in
pleadings, motions, and other papers, Rule 11(c)(4).”). The Court found that “[t]hose provisions
confirm the need to establish a causal link between misconduct and fees when acting under
inherent authority, given that such undelegated powers should be exercised with especial
‘restraint and discretion.’” Id. (quoting Roadway Express, Inc. v. Piper, 447 U.S. 752, 764
Guided by Rule 16(f)(2) and the Supreme Court’s discussion in Haeger, the Court will
reduce the amount awarded to Lethiot for attorney’s fees from the requested $6,260 to $2,500.
This is consistent with the Court’s analysis above and its review of the itemization of fees, as
well as the reduction requested by Family Dollar and adopted by JB Hunt. The Court concludes
that item numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 (DN 97 at 1-2) in Lethiot’s itemization are not reimbursable
because there is not a causal link between those items and the settlement conference order
violations by Family Dollar and JB Hunt. Each of the actions set forth in item numbers 2, 3, 4,
5, 6, and 7 were related to general preparation for the original March settlement conference and
remained useful to Lethiot in relation to the rescheduled July settlement conference. By contrast,
there is a causal connection between Family Dollar and JB Hunt’s bad-faith acts and the
remaining items in Lethiot’s counsel’s recording, which relate to counsel’s time on the date of
the failed settlement conference and his briefing on the motion for sanctions. (See id. at 2, Nos.
8-15.) Item numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 account for 18.8 hours of attorney work, which at an
hourly rate of $200 totals $3,760. The total amount of requested attorney’s fees is $6,260, and
that amount less the $3,760 to be deducted leaves a difference of $2,500. Finally, the Court
concludes that the total award to be divided equally between Family Dollar and JB Hunt is
$3,269.45, which consists of $2,500 in attorney’s fees and $769.45 in Lethiot’s personal
Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Family Dollar’s response in opposition
(DN 103) is SUSTAINED and JB Hunt’s response in opposition (DN 104) is OVERRULED IN
PART and SUSTAINED IN PART.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, in accordance with the Court’s memorandum opinion
and order sanctioning Family Dollar and JB Hunt for their conduct in relation to the March 9,
2017 settlement conference date (DN 95), Family Dollar and JB Hunt SHALL REIMBURSE
Lethiot in the amount of $3,269.45. Such amount consists of $2,500 in attorney’s fees and
$769.45 in Lethiot’s personal expenses.
Family Dollar and JB Hunt SHALL EACH BE
RESPONSIBLE FOR HALF of that award.
Payment SHALL be made no later than
September 22, 2017 by such terms as are communicated by Lethiot’s counsel to Family Dollar
and JB Hunt’s counsel.
September 13, 2017
Colin Lindsay, MagistrateJudge
United States District Court
cc: Counsel of record
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