Afinwala v. La Trelles Express Inc.

Filing 15

ORDER granting plaintiff's 12 Motion for Attorney Fees by Judge Ricardo S Martinez.(RS)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 6 7 IKRAM AFINWALA, 8 ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) Plaintiff, 9 10 v. 11 LA TRELLES EXPRESS, INC., 12 Defendant. CASE NO. C16-1707 RSM ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES AND COSTS 13 I. 14 INTRODUCTION 15 On January 6, 2017, this Court issued an Order granting Plaintiff Ikram Afinwala’s 16 Motion for Remand. Dkt. #11. As part of that Order, the Court found Mr. Afinwala is entitled 17 to an award for the fees and costs he incurred in bringing his Motion for Remand. Id. at 5. At 18 19 the Court’s direction, Mr. Afinwala filed a Motion for Attorney’s Fees and Costs. Dkt. #12. 20 Mr. Afinwala seeks attorney fees and costs in the amount of $10,556.47. Id. at 1. Defendant 21 filed no response to Mr. Afinwala’s motion.1 For the reasons set forth herein, the Court 22 GRANTS Mr. Afinwala’s motion. 23 24 25 II. 26 27 28 BACKGROUND 1 Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7 (b)(2) “[e]xcept for motions for summary judgment, if a party fails to file papers in opposition to a motion, such failure may be considered by the court as an admission that the motion has merit.” ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES AND COSTS- 1 The Court has previously set forth the relevant background to this action and 1 2 incorporates it by reference herein. See Dkt. #11 at 1-2. 3 III. 4 DISCUSSION Under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), an order remanding a case may require the payment of just 5 costs and any actual expenses, including attorney fees, incurred by a party because of removal. 6 7 Courts determine fee award amounts by first calculating a “lodestar figure,” which is obtained 8 by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended on a matter by the reasonable hourly 9 rate. Intel Corp. v. Terabyte Int’l, Inc., 6 F.3d 614, 622 (9th Cir. 1993). Courts may then 10 adjust the lodestar with reference to factors set forth in Kerr v. Screen Extras Guild, Inc., 526 11 F.2d 67, 69-70 (9th Cir. 1975). The relevant Kerr factors here are: (1) the time and labor 12 13 required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions; and (3) the skill requisite to perform 14 the legal services properly. 15 complexity of the issues, the special skill and experience of counsel, the quality of “The lodestar amount presumably reflects the novelty and 16 representation, and the results obtained from the litigation.” Intel, 6 F.3d at 622. Given this 17 18 standard, the Court finds the attorney fee amount requested by Mr. Afinwala to be reasonable. A. Reasonableness of the Rates Requested 19 20   21 rates actually charged the prevailing party.” Chalmers v. City of Los Angeles, 796 F.2d 1205 In the Ninth Circuit, determining a reasonable hourly rate “is not made by reference to 22 (9th Cir. 1986). Instead, the reasonable hourly rate is determined by referring to the prevailing 23 24 rates charged by attorneys of comparable skill and experience in the relevant community. See 25 Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 (1984). “Generally, when determining a reasonable hourly 26 rate, the relevant community is the forum in which the district court sits.” 27 Camacho v. Bridgeport Fin., Inc., 523 F.3d 973, 979 (9th Cir. 2008). Courts may also consider “rate 28 ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES AND COSTS- 2 1 determinations in other cases, particularly those setting a rate for the plaintiffs’ attorney” as 2 “satisfactory evidence of the prevailing market rate.” United Steelworkers of Am. v. Phelps 3 Dodge Corp., 896 F.2d 403, 407 (9th Cir. 1990). 4 Mr. Afinwala’s counsel requests a range of hourly rates. See Dkt. #13 at 7. Five 5 attorneys, Adam Berger, Jennifer Robbins, Lindsay Halm, Jamal Whitehead, and Laura Ewan, 6 7 worked on Mr. Afinwala’s Motion for Remand and Motion for Attorney Fees. Id. at 1-4. The 8 following hourly rates are requested for each attorney: (1) a rate of $485 for Mr. Berger; (2) a 9 rate of $365 for Jennifer Robbins; (3) a rate of $350 for Ms. Halm; (4) a rate of $325 for Mr. 10 Whitehead; and (5) a rate of $305 for Ms. Ewan. Id. at 7. In addition to these attorneys, two 11 paralegals, Jennifer Woodard and Sheila Cronan, are also included as timekeepers in 12 13 Mr. Afinwala’s request for attorney fees. Id. at 4. Hourly rates of $150 and $140, respectively, 14 are requested for Ms. Woodward and Ms. Cronan. Id. at 7. To support the rates requested, 15 Mr. Afinwala includes orders, issued in this district and in King County Superior Court in 16 2015, where hourly rates ranging from $455 to $425 were awarded for Mr. Berger’s work, an 17 18 hourly rate of $305 was awarded for Ms. Robbins’s work, a rate of $230 was awarded for Ms. 19 Ewan’s work, rates ranging between $140 and $130 were awarded for Ms. Cronan’s work, and 20 a rate of $140 was awarded for Ms. Woodward’s work. See Dkt. #13 Exs. 1-3. 21 Mr. Afinwala contends the hourly rates he requests are reasonable “based on the 22 experience, skill, and education of the respective timekeepers, and because they are consistent 23 24 with other rates approved by this court and the King County Superior Court.” Dkt. #12 at 3-4. 25 Having considered counsel’s declaration, along with the attorney fees orders issued by this 26 district and King County Superior Court, the Court agrees. The hourly rate requested for each 27 timekeeper is reasonable. 28 ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES AND COSTS- 3 1 B. Reasonableness of the Number of Hours Requested 2 Turning to the reasonableness of the hours requested, the Court notes the party seeking 3 fees “bears the burden of establishing entitlement to an award and documenting the appropriate 4 hours expended and hourly rates.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983). The Court 5 also excludes hours not reasonably expended because they are “excessive, redundant, or 6 7 otherwise unnecessary.” Id. at 434. Further, the Ninth Circuit has held that it is reasonable for 8 a district court to conclude that the party seeking attorney’s fees fails to carry its burden of 9 documenting the hours expended when that party engages in “block billing” because block 10 billing makes it more difficult to determine how much time was spent on particular activities. 11 Welch v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 480 F.3d 942, 948 (9th Cir. 2007). 12 13 The following amount of time was spent by each attorney who worked on Mr. 14 Afinwala’s Motion to Remand: (1) Mr. Berger devoted 1.7 hours in seeking remand; (2) Ms. 15 Robbins devoted 2.2 hours in seeking remand; (3) Ms. Halm devoted .4 hours in seeking 16 remand; (4) Ms. Ewan devoted 1.6 hours in seeking remand; and (5) Mr. Whitehead devoted 17 18 45.7 hours in seeking remand and in drafting Mr. Afinwala’s Motion for Attorney Fees. Dkt. 19 #13 at 5-7. Ms. Woodward devoted .4 hours in seeking remand, and Ms. Cronan devoted 3.5 20 hours in seeking remand. Id. at 6. In total, Mr. Afinwala’s counsel expended 55.5 hours, for a 21 total lodestar amount of $17,658, to secure remand. Id. at 7. However, instead of requesting 22 attorney fees for the lodestar amount of $17,658, Mr. Afinwala’s counsel only requests 23 24 $10,000. Id. Mr. Afinwala explains this request was limited “in part to exclude all time from 25 the fee petition that the Court may deem excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary, or 26 that is solely clerical in nature.” Id. 27 28 ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES AND COSTS- 4 1 The Court agrees that $10,000 reflects a reasonable attorney fee amount for Mr. 2 Afinwala’s counsel’s work. Mr. Afinwala’s request for costs in the amount of $566.47, which 3 includes the costs of photocopies, records retrieval, and computer research, is also reasonable. 4 Mr. Afinwala’s Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs is accordingly GRANTED. 5 C. Lodestar Adjustment 6 7 8 9 10 The Court finds that a lodestar fee award of $10,000 reflects the reasonable time spent in seeking remand and does not find it necessary to make any lodestar adjustments. IV. CONCLUSION Having considered Mr. Afinwala’s Motion for Attorney Fees (Dkt. #12), the 11 Declaration (Dkt. #13) and Exhibits in support thereof, along with the remainder of the record, 12 13 the Court hereby finds and ORDERS that Mr. Afinwala’s motion (Dkt. #12) is GRANTED. 14 Mr. Afinwala is awarded fees in the amount of $10,556.47. 15 16 DATED this 19th day of April 2017. 17 18 19 20 21 A RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES AND COSTS- 5

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?