Parkcrest Builders, LLC v. Housing Authority of New Orleans
ORDER: ORDERED that the 359 Motion for Attorney Fees is GRANTED. Liberty Mutual is awarded reasonable attorneys fees and expenses in the amount of $1,455.25. FURTHER ORDERED that Colmex shall satisfy its obligation to Liberty Mutual no later than twenty-one (21) days from the issuance of this Order. Signed by Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby. (Reference: All Cases)(cml)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
PARKCREST BUILDERS, LLC
HOUSING AUTHORITY OF NEW
SECTION: “J” (4)
Before the Court is Liberty Mutual Insurance Company’s Motion for Attorneys’ Fees
(R. Doc. 359) filed by Intervenor Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (“Liberty Mutual”), seeking
an order from the Court to award it the attorneys’ fees incurred by it in the filing and prosecution
of its Motion for Contempt. R. Doc. 303. The motion is unopposed. In total, Liberty Mutual seeks
$1,575.50 in attorneys’ fees.
The facts of this case are well known to the Court given the extensive pretrial motion
practice in this case. See, e.g., R. Doc. 107. On August 10, 2017, the Court granted Liberty
Mutual’s Motion for Contempt, finding that it was entitled to attorneys’ fees under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 37(a)(5)(A). R. Doc. 337. As a part of that Order, the Court ordered that Liberty
Mutual file a motion to fix attorneys’ fees and costs. Id. Liberty Mutual, thereafter, filed the
subject motion on August 15, 2017, requesting $1,575.50 in attorneys’ fees. R. Doc. 359, p. 2.
Liberty Mutual’s motion is unopposed.
Standard of Review
The Supreme Court has specified that the “lodestar” calculation is the “most useful starting
point” for determining the award for attorney’s fees. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433
(1983). Lodestar is computed by “. . . the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation
multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Id. The lodestar calculation, “. . . provides an objective
basis on which to make an initial estimate of the value of a lawyer’s services.” Id. Once the
lodestar has been determined, the district court must consider the weight and applicability of the
twelve factors delineated in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th
Cir. 1974). See Watkins v. Fordice, 7 F.3d 453, 457 (5th Cir. 1993). 1 Subsequently, if the Johnson
factors warrant an adjustment, the court may make modifications upward or downward to the
lodestar. Id. However, the lodestar is presumed to be a reasonable calculation and should be
modified only in exceptional circumstances. Id. (citing City of Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557,
The party seeking attorneys’ fees bears the burden of establishing the reasonableness of the
fees by submitting “adequate documentation of the hours reasonably expended,” and
demonstrating the use of billing judgement. Creecy v. Metro. Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 548 F. Supp.
2d 279, 286 (E.D. La. 2008) (citing Wegner v. Standard Ins. Co., 129 F.3d 814, 822 (5th Cir.1997)).
Reasonable Hourly Rate
Here, Liberty Mutual has submitted the affidavit of Craig N. Mangum. R. Doc. 359-2.
Liberty Mutual has requested an hourly rate of $225 for work conducted by David J. Krebs
(“Krebs”), $225 for work conducted by Craig N. Mangum (“Mangum”), and $185 for work
conducted by Cassandra R. Hewlings (“Hewlings”). R. Doc. 359-2, p. 3.
The twelve Johnson factors are (1) the time and labor involved; (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 this case; (5) the customary fee; (6) whether fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations; (8) the amount
involved and results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation and ability of counsel; (10) the “undesirability” of the
case; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar cases.
See Johnson v. Ga. Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974).
Additionally, attached to Mangum’s affidavit are on-line biographies of each attorney.
Krebs’ biography lays out that he is managing partner of Krebs Farley and has been practicing law
for thirty-five (35) years. R. Doc. 359-3. Furthermore, Krebs’ biography notes that he is ranked
by Chambers among the “top construction attorneys in the region . . . [and] represents some of the
country’s largest corporations in major litigation matters.” Id. Mangum is a partner with Krebs
Farley and has nine (9) years of legal experience, and Hewlings is an associate with Krebs Farley
and has four (4) years of legal experience. R. Doc. 359-4, p. 1; 359-5.
The “appropriate hourly rate . . . is the market rate in the community for this work.” Black
v. SettlePou, P.C., 732 F.3d 492, 502 (5th Cir. 2013) (citing Smith & Fuller, P.A. v. Cooper Tire
& Rubber Co., 685 F.3d 486, 490 (5th Cir. 2012)). Moreover, the rate must be calculated “at the
‘prevailing market rates in the relevant community for similar services by attorneys of reasonably
comparable skills, experience, and reputation.’” Int’l Transp. Workers Fed’n v. Mi-Das Line, SA,
13–00454, 2013 WL 5329873, at *3 (E.D. La. Sept. 20, 2013) (quoting Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S.
886, 895 (1984)). Finally, if the hourly rate is not opposed, then it is prima facie reasonable.
Powell v. C.I.R., 891 F.2d 1167, 1173 (5th Cir. 1990) (quoting Islamic Ctr. of Miss. v. City of
Starkville, 876 F.2d 468, 469 (5th Cir. 1989)).
Note, “attorney travel time is typically compensated at 50% of the reasonable hourly rate.”
Int’l Transp. Workers Fed’n, 2013 WL 5329873, at *4 (citing Watkins, 7 F.3d at 459).
As proof of reasonableness of rates charged, Liberty Mutual has cited to numerous
decisions from this Court. See DirecTV, LLC v. Habip ERTEM, Civil Action No. 13-487, 2015
WL 459398, at *3 (E.D. La. Feb. 3, 2015) (finding that $350/hour for partners and $250/hour for
associates in New Orleans market were reasonable rates); Offshore Marine Contractors, Inc. v.
Palm Energy Offshore, LLC, Civil Action No. 10-4151, 2014 WL 5039670, at *8 (E.D. La. Sept.
25, 2014) (approving hourly rates of $325/hour for an attorney with 19 years of experience,
$275/hour for an attorney with 7 years of experience, and $225/hour for an attorney with 4 years
of experience); Constr. S., Inc. v. Jenkins, Civil Action No. 11-1201, 2011 WL 3882271, at *2
(E.D. La. July 29, 2011) (approving $350/hour for partners with 30 and 36 years of experience).
In the instant case, Colmex does not challenge the reasonableness of the rates of neither
Krebs, Magnum, nor Hewlings. Therefore, the hourly rates of $225 for both Krebs and Mangum
and $185 for Hewlings, respectively, are presumed reasonable. See Powell, 891 F.2d at 1173
(citing Islamic Ctr. of Miss., 876 F.2d at 468 (“When an attorney’s customary billing rate is the
rate at which the attorney requests the lodestar be computed and that rate is within the range of
prevailing market rates, the court should consider this rate when fixing the hourly rate to be
allowed. When that rate is not contested, it is prima facie reasonable.”)).
Hours Reasonably Spent on Litigation
Next, the court must determine whether the time expended was reasonable. The party
seeking the fee bears the burden of documenting and supporting the reasonableness of all time
expenditures sought. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437. The “[c]ounsel for the prevailing party should
make a good faith effort to exclude from fee request hours that are excessive, redundant, and
otherwise unnecessary. . . .” Id. at 434. Precisely, the party seeking the award must show all
hours spent on the case, but not included in the fee request. See Leroy v. City of Houston, 831 F.2d
576, 585 (5th Cir. 1987). Hours that are not properly billed to one’s client also are not properly
billed to one’s adversary. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434. The Supreme Court calls on fee applicants to
make requests that demonstrate “billing judgement”. Id. The remedy for failing to exercise “billing
judgment” is to exclude hours that were not reasonably expended. See Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434;
Walker v. City of Mesquite, 313 F.2d 246, 251 (5th Cir. 2002) (quoting Walker v. HUD, 99 F.3d
761, 770 (5th Cir. 1996)) (“If there is no evidence of billing judgment, however, then the proper
remedy is not a denial of fees, but a reduction of ‘the hours awarded by a percentage intended to
substitute for the exercise of billing judgment.’”). Overly vague explanations of hours expended
may result in a reduction of hours used in the Lodestar calculation. See Hagan v. MRS Assoc. Inc.,
99–3749, 2001 WL 531119, at *5 (E.D. La. May 15, 2001) (quoting La. Power & Light Co. v.
Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319, 327 (5th Cir. 1995)) (“Litigants ‘take their chances’ when submitting
inadequately documented fee applications which provide little information from which to
determine the reasonableness of the hours expended on tasks vaguely described or lumped
together.”). Alternatively, this Court can conduct a line-by-line analysis of the time report. See
Green v. Adm’rs of the Tulane Educ. Fund, 284 F.3d 642, 662 (5th Cir. 2002), overruled on other
grounds by Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53 (2006).
Here, Liberty Mutual has provided a L.R. 54.2 Verified Contemporaneous Report,
demonstrating that Krebs worked 0.5 hours on the motion for contempt, Mangum worked a total
of 4.2 hours, and Hewlings worked a total of 2.8 hours. R. Doc. 359-2, p. 4. However, the Court
finds that the hours expended by Hewlings are excessive. Given that Hewlings had already
expended 1.5 hours on July 23, 2017, on the memorandum in support of the motion for contempt,
it is the Court’s position that an additional 1.3 hours on July 24, 2017, was not necessary to draft
the memorandum in support, especially considering the motion for contempt involved no difficult
or novel issues of law or fact. It was simply a motion holding Colmex in contempt for its failure
to comply with the Court’s discovery order. As such, the Court will reduce the hours spent by
Hewlings on the memorandum in support by 0.65 hours. Therefore, the Court finds that the
reasonable hours expended by Liberty Mutual are: 0.5 hours, 4.2 hours, and 2.15 hours for Krebs,
Mangum, and Hewlings, respectively.
Given the foregoing reasonable rates and hours, the Court calculates the following Lodestar
amount for each attorney as:
David J. Krebs
Craig N. Mangum
The total Lodestar amount then is $1,455.25.
Adjusting the Lodestar
After the lodestar is determined, the Court may then adjust the lodestar upward or
downward depending on the twelve factors set forth in Johnson, 488 F.2d at 717-19. However,
“the Supreme Court has limited greatly the use of the second, third, eighth, and ninth factors for
enhancement purposes, and accordingly, the Fifth Circuit has held that ‘[e]nhancements based
upon these factors are only appropriate in rare cases supported by specific evidence in the record
and detailed findings by the courts.’” Wells Fargo Equip. Fin., Inc. v. Beaver Const., LLC, No.
CIV. 6:10-0386, 2011 WL 5525999, at *3 (W.D. La. Oct. 18, 2011) (citing Walker v. U.S. Dep’t
of Hous. and Urban Dev., 99 F.3d 761, 771–72 (5th Cir. 1996)). Finally, to the extent that any
Johnson factors are subsumed in the lodestar, they should not be reconsidered when determining
whether an adjustment to the lodestar is required. Migis v. Pearle Vision, Inc., 135 F.3d 1041,
1047 (5th Cir. 1998). The Court has carefully evaluated the Johnson factors and finds no
adjustment of the lodestar is warranted.
IT IS ORDERED that Intervenor’s Liberty Mutual Insurance Company’s Motion for
Attorneys’ Fees (R. Doc. 359) is GRANTED. Liberty Mutual is awarded reasonable attorneys’
fees and expenses in the amount of $1,455.25.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Colmex shall satisfy its obligation to Liberty Mutual
no later than twenty-one (21) days from the issuance of this Order.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 17th day of October 2017.
KAREN WELLS ROBY
CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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