District Brewing Company, Inc. v. CBC Restaurant, LLC
OPINION AND ORDER: The Court DENIES 61 Defendant's Motion to Reduce Expert Witness Fees, GRANTS 62 Plaintiff's Motion to Compel the Payment of its Expert's Invoice for His Deposition Taken by Defendant and G RANTS 66 Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Instanter A Supplemental Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Reduce Plaintiff's Expert Witness Fees. Signed by Magistrate Judge Chelsey M. Vascura on 9/12/2017. (kdp)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
DISTRICT BREWING COMPANY, INC.
d/b/a “Columbus Brewing Company,”
Civil Action 2:15-cv-3114
Judge Algenon L. Marbley
Magistrate Judge Chelsey M. Vascura
CBC RESTAURANT, LLC
d/b/a “Columbus Brewing Company
OPINION AND ORDER
On August 30, 2017, Defendant, CBC Restaurant, LLC, filed its Motion to Reduce
Plaintiff’s Expert Witness Fees. (ECF No. 61.) Defendant asserts that the hourly rate and
number of hours submitted by Plaintiff’s expert witness, Dr. Sashi Matta, PhD, are unreasonable.
In particular, Defendant contends that $500.00 per hour is “outrageous” and that his single block
of nineteen hours for deposition preparation gives no guidance as to the amount of time he spent
on particular tasks. Defendant argues that, without additional information as to how Dr. Matta
spent that time, the Court cannot find that the amount of time was reasonable.
On August 31, 2017, Plaintiff, District Brewing Company, Inc., filed its Motion to
Compel the Payment of Its Expert’s Invoice for His Deposition Take by Defendant. (ECF No.
62.) Plaintiff contemporaneously filed an attorney affidavit in support of its motion. (ECF No.
63.) Plaintiff seeks the payment of Dr. Matta’s expert witness fees of $11,500.00 in full.
Plaintiff states that the parties had previously agreed to pay each other’s expert witnesses for
both preparation time and time being deposed. Indeed, Plaintiff has already paid Defendant’s
expert witness for preparation, deposition, travel, and one-day witness fee. (Id.) Defendant’s
expert charged $440.00 per hour for the eleven and one-half hours of preparation and five and
one half hours for the deposition—a total of $7,480.00. (Id.) Plaintiff also filed its
Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Reduce Plaintiff’s Expert Witness Fees
and another attorney affidavit in support on August 31, 2017. (ECF Nos. 64, 65.) Plaintiff
reasserted its arguments in support of its own motion and noted that Dr. Matta’s hourly rate had
been known for over a year and that Defendant had been re-informed of Dr. Matta’s hourly rate
prior to the deposition. Additionally, Plaintiff noted that it intended to supplement its
Memorandum with a more detailed invoice for the nineteen hours of preparation. On September
8, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File Instanter a Supplemental Memorandum in
Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Reduce Plaintiff’s Expert Witness Fees (ECF No. 66) and
the Affidavit (ECF No. 67) of Plaintiff’s counsel, attached to which is a more detailed invoice
from Dr. Matta. The attached invoice breaks out the tasks performed by Dr. Matta and specifies
the amount of time he spent on each of those tasks.
This matter is now before the Court to resolve the issues raised by the parties in their
cross-motions relating to Dr. Matta’s fees. In resolving those issues, the Court has considered
the detailed invoice provided by Plaintiff’s counsel on September 8 and hereby GRANTS
Plaintiff’s motion for leave to file counsel’s affidavit and the invoice (ECF No. 66).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(4)(E)(i) states that “[u]nless manifest injustice
would result,” a party must pay an expert a “reasonable fee for time spent in responding to
discovery.” The reasonableness of an expert witness fee is within the discretion of the Court,
which considers a variety of factors in evaluating any particular witness’s fee. See Bonar v.
Romano, No. 2:08-cv-560, 2008 WL 4280691, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Oct. 25, 2008). Those factors
include the education and experience of the expert, the prevailing rates for similar experts, and
the complexity of the information sought. Id. The Court may also consider “the prevailing rate
for a comparable, available expert,” Anderson v. Jas Carriers, Inc., No. 1:12-cv-280, 2013 WL
991902, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 13, 2013), as long as that rate is not influenced by the “whateverthe-market-will-bear approach” that some experts use to set fees. Jochims v. Isuzu Motors, Ltd.,
141 F.R.D. 493, 496 n.3 (S.D. Iowa 1992).
Here, Dr. Matta’s hourly rate of $500.00 per hour is reasonable. Defendant’s sole
argument in support of reducing the fee is that $500.00 is an “outrageous” rate. The Court
observes, however, that Defendant’s own expert, Jeffrey Standley, has charged $440.00 per hour
in this case, and Defendant has not argued that Dr. Matta’s expertise does not justify an hourly
rate in the same range. Indeed, in the Court’s estimation, Dr. Matta’s education and experience
in the subject matter of this litigation support his fee, and, absent evidence of a substantially
lower prevailing rate, the Court considers $500.00 to be within the range of prevailing rates for
comparable experts in light of Mr. Standley’s fee.
Dr. Matta’s deposition preparation time of 19 hours is likewise reasonable. Defendant
challenged the number of hours spent by Dr. Matta on the ground that Plaintiff had not provided
a detailed invoice and that the expert had assessed the total fee of $11,500 on the basis of just
two blocks of time: one block of nineteen hours for deposition preparation and one block of four
hours for deposition attendance. The Affidavit submitted by Plaintiff’s counsel on September 8
(ECF No. 67) supplements the initial invoice with sufficient detail to convince the Court that the
number of hours for each task is reasonable and consistent with thorough and careful preparation
by an expert for a four-hour deposition.
Having carefully considered the parties’ positions and the recently-filed Affidavit of
Plaintiff’s counsel, the Court finds no basis for reducing Plaintiff’s expert witness fees. The
Court hereby DENIES Defendant’s Motion to reduce Plaintiff’s Expert Witness Fees (ECF No.
61) and GRANTS Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel the Payment of Its Expert’s Invoice (ECF No.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ Chelsey M. Vascura
CHELSEY M. VASCURA
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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