Mr. Mudbug, Inc. v. Bloomin' Brands, Inc.
ORDER AND REASONS denying 80 MOTION for APPEAL OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE DECISION to District Court. The Magistrate's award of attorneys' fees to Defendant is AFFIRMED. Signed by Judge Jane Triche Milazzo. (ecm)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
MR. MUDBUG, INC.
BLOOMIN BRANDS, INC.
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court is Plaintiff’s Appeal of the Magistrate Judge’s Order
regarding an award of attorneys’ fees (Doc. 80). For the following reasons, the
Motion is DENIED, and the Magistrate Judge’s award of attorneys’ fees is
Plaintiff Mr. Mudbug, Inc. d/b/a MMI Culinary Services manufactures
food products such as soups, sauces, and dressings.
Brands, Inc. operates multiple national and international restaurant chains.
For a period of approximately eight years, the parties formed a business
relationship in which Plaintiff produced pre-prepared foods for Defendant.
Plaintiff alleges that it expanded its manufacturing facilities in 2008 in
reliance on this relationship. Following this expansion, for reasons that are
disputed, Defendant began to award fewer contracts to Plaintiff. By December
of 2014, the business relationship had been terminated entirely.
During the course of discovery, Defendant requested a site inspection of
Plaintiff’s food product and facility. At Plaintiff’s request, Defendant formally
noticed the inspection. The evidence shows that Plaintiff initially objected to
the inspection as irrelevant to the case, although such filing was marked
deficient and never remedied. Plaintiff, however, confirmed by email that no
inspection would be taking place on the noticed date.
On January 17,
Defendant filed a Motion to Compel the site inspection. At some point before
the hearing on this motion, Plaintiff decided that it would allow an inspection
as long as it took place on a weekend.
On February 1, 2017, Magistrate Judge Roby granted Defendant’s
Motion to Compel and awarded attorneys’ fees, stating that Defendant made a
good faith attempt to obtain the inspection without intervention of the Court
and that Plaintiff’s objections were not substantially justified. She noted that
Plaintiff’s change in position regarding allowing the inspection undercut the
credibility of its initial objections. She therefore awarded Defendant attorneys’
fees and directed it to file a motion to fix the amount of those fees. Defendant
did so, filing a Motion to Fix Attorneys’ Fees, which Judge Roby granted on
February 24, 2017, awarding Defendant $3,686.40 in attorneys’ fees.
Plaintiff now appeals this ruling. Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for
Appeal of Magistrate Judge’s Decision on March 9, 2017, contesting
Defendant’s entitlement to attorneys’ fees.
With the consent of the presiding district judge, a magistrate judge may
adjudicate non-dispositive pre-trial motions. 1 A magistrate judge is afforded
broad discretion in resolving non-dispositive pre-trial matters. 2
aggrieved by the magistrate judge’s ruling may appeal to the district judge
within fourteen days after service of the ruling. 3
The district judge may
reverse only upon a finding that the ruling is “clearly erroneous or contrary to
law.” 4 In order to meet this high standard, the district judge must be “left with
a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” 5
LAW & ANALYSIS
Plaintiff argues that Defendant should not be entitled to receive
attorneys’ fees for its Motion to Compel Site Inspection because it did not
engage in a good faith attempt to discuss Plaintiff’s objections to the proposed
inspection prior to filing such. Plaintiff acknowledges that it objected to the
relevance and proportionality of the inspection and also expressed concerns
about the loss in revenue that would result in holding the inspection on a
weekday during the facility’s operations. Plaintiff contends that Defendant
never sought to address its objections prior to filing its Motion to Compel.
First, Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s appeal is untimely. This Court
The Magistrate Judge ruled on February 1 that Defendant was
entitled to attorneys’ fees. She ruled on February 24 that Plaintiff must pay
Defendant attorneys’ fees in the amount of $3,686.40. Plaintiff’s appeal solely
disputes Defendant’s entitlement to attorneys’ fees, and it does not dispute the
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).
McCallon v. BP Am. Prod. Co., Nos. 05–0597, C/W 05–0700, 2006 WL 3246886, at *2 (E.D. La. Nov.
3 FED. R. CIV. P. 72(a).
4 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); FED. R. CIV. P. 72(a).
5 Yelton v. PHI, Inc., 284 F.R.D. 374, 376 (E.D. La. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted).
quantification thereof. Therefore, it is clear that Plaintiff intends to appeal the
Magistrate Judge’s initial February 1 order. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 72(a) an appeal of a magistrate judge’s ruling must be brought
within 14 days of that ruling. Therefore Plaintiff’s appeal, filed on March 9,
Plaintiff argues that its appeal is not untimely because an order
awarding attorneys’ fees is not a final appealable judgment until the amount
of attorneys’ fees is fixed. In making this argument, however, Plaintiff cites to
cases discussing the appeal of a final judgment of the district court to the Fifth
Circuit. Such is not dispositive here. Rule 72(a) states that “[a] party may
serve and file objections to the [magistrate judge’s] order within 14 days after
being served with a copy,” notwithstanding whether that order is interlocutory
or final. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s appeal is untimely.
Even so, this Court finds that the magistrate judge’s ruling awarding
Defendant attorneys’ fees is not clearly erroneous or contrary to law. It is clear
from the evidence that Plaintiff initially refused to provide Defendant with a
suitable date upon which to perform the inspection, and instead, requested
that it formally notice the inspection. Plaintiff then objected to the relevance
and proportionality of the inspection. As the magistrate judge noted, “Given
the hardline position taken by Plaintiff, the Court is satisfied that the
Defendant attempted in good faith to obtain the discovery without the Court’s
aid and that ultimately the filing of the motion to compel was justified.” 6
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s Motion to Appeal the Magistrate
Judge’s Order is DENIED, and the Magistrate’s award of attorneys’ fees to
Defendant is AFFIRMED.
New Orleans, this 25th day of May, 2017.
JANE TRICHE MILAZZO
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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