State Farm Fire and Casualty v. Helen of Troy, Limited et al

Filing 101

ORDER granting in part plaintiff's 81 Motion for Attorney Fees signed by Judge Ricardo S Martinez.(RS)

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  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 8 9 10 11 12 13 STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY, as subrogee for Catherine Robinson, Plaintiff, Case No. C15-1771-RSM ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES v. 14 15 16 HELEN OF TROY, LLC, et al., Defendants. 17 This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff State Farm’s Motion for Attorney’s 18 Fees, Dkt. #81, submitted pursuant to the Court’s May 31, 2017 Order awarding “reasonable 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 expenses in bringing this Motion [to Exclude] and in drafting the Court’s requested supplemental briefing.” Dkt. #76 at 6. State Farm requests $10,720 in fees. Dkt #81. District courts have broad discretion to determine the reasonableness of fees. Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1398 (9th Cir. 1992). To make this determination, courts determine the “lodestar amount,” which is calculated by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate. Camacho v. Bridgeport Fin., Inc., 523 F.3d 27 973, 978 (9th Cir. 2008). The lodestar figure is presumptively a reasonable fee award. Id. at 28 977. The court may adjust the lodestar figure up or down based upon the factors listed in Kerr ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES - 1   1 v. Screen Extras Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 70 (9th Cir.1975). The court need not consider the 2 Kerr factors, however, unless necessary to support the reasonableness of the fee award. Cairns 3 v. Franklin Mint Co., 292 F.3d 1139, 1158 (9th Cir. 2002).1 4 determination of a reasonable hourly rate ‘is not made by reference to the rates actually charged 5 6 7 In the Ninth Circuit, “the the prevailing party.’” Welch v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 480 F.3d 942, 946 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Mendenhall v. Nat’l Transp. Safety Bd., 213 F.3d 464, 471 (9th Cir. 2000)). “Rather, 8 billing rates should be established by reference to the fees that private attorneys of an ability 9 and reputation comparable to that of prevailing counsel charge their paying clients for legal 10 11 12 work of similar complexity.” Id. (internal quotation omitted). “Affidavits of the plaintiffs’ attorney and other attorneys regarding prevailing fees in the community, and rate 13 determinations in other cases, particularly those setting a rate for the plaintiffs’ attorney, are 14 satisfactory evidence of the prevailing market rate.” United Steelworkers of Am. v. Phelps 15 Dodge Corp., 896 F.2d 403, 407 (9th Cir. 1990). “The party seeking fees bears the burden of 16 documenting the hours expended in the litigation and must submit evidence supporting those 17 18 hours…” Welch, 480 F.3d at 945-46 (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S. 19 Ct. 1933, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40 (1983)). It is reasonable for a district court to conclude that the party 20 seeking attorney’s fees fails to carry its burden of documenting the hours expended when that 21 party engages in “block billing” because block billing makes it more difficult to determine how 22 23 24 25 much time was spent on particular activities. Welch, 480 F.3d at 948. The district court “should exclude any hours ‘that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.’” McCown v. City of Fontana, 565 F.3d 1097, 1102 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434). 26 27 28 1 Additionally, numerous courts have subsequently held that the bulk of these factors are subsumed in the lodestar calculation. See, e.g., Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 898-900, 104 S. Ct. 1541, 79 L. Ed. 2d 891 (1984). ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES - 2   1 The Court will first address the requested hourly rate. State Farm’s counsel requests a 2 rate of $400 per hour, stating that he was awarded $350 in 2009, and that “[c]urrently charging 3 $400 per hour is believed reasonable as this is only a 14% increase over his fee nine years ago.” 4 Dkt. #81 at 4. State Farm does not submit evidence that other attorneys practicing in this area 5 6 7 in the local community bill at this rate, stating via declaration that “[b]ecause of the specific focus of his practice, and the fact that other subrogation attorneys primarily bill on a 8 contingency fee basis, there are few instances of being able to cite other, similar, attorney’s 9 billing rates.” Dkt. #82 at 2 n.1. Defendants submit that a rate of $300 is more consistent with 10 11 12 the rates ordinarily charged by similar attorneys in this district. Dkt. #91 at 3 (citing MacDonald v. Lincoln Nat. Life. Ins. Co., 2010 WL 2985688 (W. D. Wash. 2010); Johnson v. 13 CitiMortgage, Inc., 2014 WL 2207619 (W. D. Wash. 2014)). The Court finds that State Farm 14 has not submitted adequate evidence to support the requested rate of $400 and that a rate of 15 $350 is reasonable and closer to what is charged for similar legal work in this district. 16 The Court will next discuss the hours requested. The Court has reviewed the specific 17 18 billing entries and finds that the research hours occurring on March 6, 2017, and March 14, 19 2017, were excessive and not “reasonable expenses in bringing this Motion [to Exclude] and in 20 drafting the Court’s requested supplemental briefing,” and will therefore not constitute part of 21 the award. See Dkt. #82 at 3. All other requested hours are reasonable. The Court disagrees 22 23 24 with Defendants’ speculative argument that the May 11, 2017, billing entry was unreasonable because counsel had represented that the underlying Motion was ready to file. It is possible for 25 an attorney to assert that a Motion is ready to be filed, then continue to make reasonable 26 revisions to that Motion prior to filing. Furthermore, the total time spent on the Motion, 9.5 27 hours, is reasonable. 28 ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES - 3   1 2 After cutting the above billing entries, the Court will award fees for 20.1 hours at a rate of $350 per hour for a total of $7,035. 3 Having reviewed the relevant briefing, the declarations and exhibits attached thereto, 4 and the remainder of the record, the Court hereby finds and ORDERS that Plaintiff’s Motion 5 6 7 for Attorneys’ Fees (Dkt. #81) is GRANTED IN PART as stated above. Defendants shall pay Plaintiff $7,035 in attorney’s fees. 8 9 DATED this 12 day of July, 2017. 10 11 12 13 A RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES - 4

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