Roberts v. Vantage Deepwater Drilling Inc
MEMORANDUM ORDER - IT IS ORDERED that on or before August 15, 2017, counsel for Defendant shall remit $3,820.00 to counsel for Defendants. Signed by Magistrate Judge Joseph H L Perez-Montes on 6/15/2017. (crt,Tice, Y)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:16-CV-00849
CHIEF JUDGE DRELL
MAGISTRATE JUDGE PEREZ-MONTES
On March 27, 2017, following briefing and a hearing, the Court granted
Plaintiffs’ request for attorney fees under Fed. R. Civ. P. 37. (Doc. 27). The Court
further ordered that Defendant submit competent and adequate evidence of
attorney’s fees and costs incurred in the filing of the Motion to Compel and for
Attorney Fees (Doc. 21).
Counsel for Defendant filed an affidavit and exhibit evidencing a total of
$5,145.00 in attorney fees. (Doc. 31). That figure is based upon the individual hourly
rates of two attorneys who worked to prosecute the Motion to Compel: Timothy W.
Strickland Stacey T. Norstrud. Strickland worked a total of 13.1 hours, resulting in
$2,930.00 in legal fees. Finding some reductions in defense counsel’s suggested rates
and hours appropriate, the Court awards defense counsel $3,820.00 in attorney’s fees.
Law and Analysis
Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(5), if a motion to compel is granted, “the court must,
after giving an opportunity to be heard, require the party . . . whose conduct
necessitated the motion, the party or attorney advising that conduct, or both to pay
the movant's reasonable expenses incurred in making the motion, including
attorney's fees.” In fixing reasonable attorney’s fees, the Court must determine the
reasonable number of hours expended on the litigation and the reasonable hourly
rate to be assigned each hour. See La. Power & Light Co. v. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319,
323-24 (5th Cir. 1995). Attorney’s fees must be calculated at the “prevailing market
rates in the relevant community for similar services by attorneys of reasonably
comparable skills, experience, and reputation.” Adams v. City of New Orleans, No.
CIV.A. 13-6779, 2015 WL 4606223, at *3 (E.D. La. July 30, 2015).
Recent attorneys’ fees awards in this district include: $160.00 (Pitre v. City of
Eunice, No. 6:14-CV-02843, 2015 WL 4459964 (W.D. La. July 21, 2015) (attorneys
based in Lafayette, LA, with approximately 30 and 15 years of experience)); $275.00
(Dugas v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC., No. 6:12-CV-02885, 2015 WL 1198604 (W.D.
La. March 16, 2015) (Lafayette-based attorney with 15 years of experience who
originally requested $450.00 per hour)); $225.00 (Campbell v. Harold Miller, Jr.
Trucking & Paving, LLC, Civ. No. 6:13-2840, 2014 WL 6389567 (W.D. La. Nov. 13,
2014) (attorney based in Lafayette with approximately 20 years of experience)); and
$200.00 and $185.00 (Cash v. Unocal Corp., Civ. No. 6:04-1648, 2014 WL 2980589
(W.D. La. May 27, 2014) (Metairie, Louisiana-based attorneys with approximately 30
and 15 years of experience)).
The suggested hourly rates of $300.00 for partners and $225.00 for associate
attorneys fall at the high end of rates normally awarded in this district. However,
Strickland and Norstrud practice in Houston, which is in the Southern District of
Texas. Prevailing rates in that district are generally higher than rates charged in
this district. See, e,g., Gomez v. Nationwide Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 5:15-CV-67, 2016
WL 6816219, at *2 (S.D. Tex. Apr. 25, 2016) (Laredo, Texas, awarding an hourly rate
of $180.00 for an attorney with approximately 8 years of experience); Dean v. Wells
Fargo Bank, N.A., 2:14-CV-304, 2016 WL 126413, at *2 (S.D. Tex. Jan. 12, 2016)
(Corpus Christi, Texas, reducing a suggested hourly rate of $297.00 to $250.00);
Healix Infusion Therapy, Inc. v. Smith, M.D., P.C., CIV.A. H-09-2776, 2011 WL
4526551, at *2 (S.D. Tex. July 7, 2011), report and recommendation adopted, CIV.A.
H-09-2776, 2011 WL 4526671 (S.D. Tex. July 28, 2011) (Houston, Texas, awarding
$250.00 per hour to in-house counsel as a “market rate”). Nonetheless, the Court
feels that a slight reduction in the suggested rates is appropriate. The Court will
award Strickland a rate of $275.00 per hour, and Norstrud a rate of $200.00 per hour.
The Court must also determine whether the total hours claimed by counsel
were reasonable in light of the facts of the case and the work performed. Pitre, 2015
WL 4459964 (citations omitted). Here, Strickland lists 13.1 total hours of work, 9.7
hours of which were spent preparing for, traveling to, and participating in the motion
hearing, as well as “discussion with client regarding status” following the hearing.
(Doc. 31-1). Because parties must be afforded “an opportunity to be heard” before
fees may be awarded under Fed. R. Civ. P. 37, the hearing was necessitated by the
motion to compel. The Court will reduce Strickland’s additional charges: 1.9 hours
analyzing, revising, and discussing the motion will be reduced to 1 hour; 1.3 hours
preparing for hearing on the motion to compel will be reduced to .5 hours; and .2
hours spent discussing the status of the motion to compel will be stricken.
Accordingly, Strickland will be credited with 11.2 hours of work at $275.00 per hour,
for a total of $3,080.00 in attorney’s fees.
Norstrud lists a total of 5.4 hours of work, 4.7 hours of which were spent
drafting, revising, and filing the motion to compel and reviewing local rules. This
total is reduced to 3 hours. Norstrud also spent .7 hours reviewing and compiling
exhibits. Thus, Norstrud will be credited with 3.7 hours of work at $200.00 per hour,
for a total of $740.00 in attorney’s fees.
Finally, Plaintiff’s failure to maintain contact with his attorney caused the
breakdown in the discovery process which preceded the motion to compel.
Therefore, Plaintiff – and not Plaintiffs’ counsel – is responsible for the fees incurred
by defense counsel.
IT IS ORDERED that on or before August 15, 2017, counsel for Defendant shall
remit $3,820.00 to counsel for Defendants.
THUS DONE AND SIGNED in chambers in Alexandria, Louisiana, this
_______ day of June, 2017.
Joseph H.L. Perez-Montes
United States Magistrate Judge
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