United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
A. KIMBALL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
court's November 2, 2018 Memorandum Decision and Order,
the court concluded that Plaintiff EarthGrains Baking
Companies, Inc. was entitled to an award of attorneys'
fees and costs in connection with its Renewed Motion for
Contempt Sanctions and the Sycamore Family LLC's Motion
to Appoint Special Master. Plaintiff submitted its requested
attorneys' fees, and Leland Sycamore and the Sycamore
Family LLC (collectively “the Sycamores”) each
opposed Plaintiff's request. The matter is fully briefed
and the court concludes that a hearing would not
significantly aid in the court's determination of the
issues presented. Accordingly, the court issues the following
Memorandum Decision and Order based on the law and facts
relevant to the matter as well as the memoranda and other
supporting materials submitted by the parties.
seeks $204, 866.94 in attorneys' fees and $3, 072.67 in
costs attributable to its Renewed Motion for Contempt
Sanctions and the Sycamore Family LLC's Motion to Appoint
Special Master. “When determining what is a reasonable
award of attorneys' fees, the district court must
calculate the ‘lodestar,' which is the reasonable
number of hours spent on the litigation multiplied by a
reasonable hourly rate.” United Phosphorous. Ltd.
v. Midland Fumigant, Inc., 205 F.3d 1219, 1233 (10th
Cir. 2000). The court determines reasonable hourly rates
based on evidence of what the “market commands for . .
. analogous litigation” and the
“‘prevailing market rate in the relevant
community.'” Id. at 1232 (citations
omitted). In determining the proper amount of hours, the
overriding consideration is whether the hours were necessary.
Robinson v. City of Edmond, 160 F.3d 1275, 1281
(10th Cir. 1998). The party seeking the award of
fees has the burden of proving both the numbers of hours
spent and the hourly rates charged are reasonable. United
Phosphorus, 205 F.3d at 1233.
court has previously approved of EarthGrains'
counsel's rates in this matter based on a declaration of
Samuel C. Straight, a prominent intellectual property
litigator in Salt Lake. Mr. Straight's declaration
provided the court with market evidence of reasonable hourly
rates in cases of similar subject matter and complexity as
well as the rates commensurate with the attorneys' levels
of experience. The court concludes that EarthGrains'
requested rates are reasonable prevailing market rates for
this type of complex litigation.
establishing the reasonable hourly rates, the court must then
determine whether the hours billed are reasonable. In
considering a reasonable fee award, the Tenth Circuit has
suggested that courts consider the following factors: (1)
whether the tasks being billed would normally be billed to a
paying client, (2) the number of hours spent on each task;
(3) the complexity of the case, (4) the number of reasonable
strategies pursued, (5) the responses necessitated by the
maneuvering of the other side, and (6) potential duplication
of services by multiple lawyers. Ramos v. Lamm, 713
F.2d 546, 555 (10th Cir. 1983).
initial matter, the Sycamores assert that EarthGrains has not
proven that it paid the invoices submitted with the fee
request. However, the Declarations of Nicholas U. Frandsen
and Charles A. Burke both attest that EarthGrains has
incurred a specific amount of attorneys' fees and costs
to their law firms. While the declarations may not
specifically state that EarthGrains submitted payment to the
law firms in those specific amounts, by stating that
EarthGrains has “incurred” certain legal fees,
the court understands the declarations to mean that
EarthGrains has paid those amounts.
Sycamores also take issue with alleged “block
billing” and request that the court reduce
EarthGrains' fee award on that basis. The Tenth Circuit
has refused to establish “a rule of law requiring a
reduction in fees when attorneys have block billed.”
Flying J Inc. V. TCH, LLC, 322 Fed.Appx. 610, 617
(10th Cir. 2009); Cadena v. The Pacesetter
Corp., 224 F.3d 1203, 1215 (10th Cir. 2000)
(“This court has not established a rule mandating
reduction or denial of a fee request if the prevailing party
submits attorney records which reflect block
billing.”). The court has previously addressed this
issue in relation to a previous attorneys' fee award in
this case. As this court previously found, EarthGrains'
billing records do not appear unusually vague, and the court
does not find the nature of the block billing troubling.
Moreover, most entries are for a single task or related
Sycamores further assert that EarthGrains' submitted
billing statements demonstrate significant inefficiencies.
The Sycamores argue that billing a client $200, 000 for a
renewed motion for contempt is unreasonable. But the court
does not believe a per se argument can be made in this
context. The renewed contempt motion and motion to appoint a
special master presented highly factual issues, spanning
several years of obfuscation and discovery, and necessitated
a significant amount of analysis. The court itself could not
address the issues in less than twenty pages and spent a
significant amount of time reviewing the relevant case law
and the extensive facts at issue, and then considering the
proper course and remedy for the conduct in question. When
circumstances reach the point of requiring the appointment of
a receiver, the issue is complicated and needs detailed
factual support. The Sycamores cannot escape the fact that
they put EarthGrains in the unusual position of having to
prove contempt and the necessity of a receivership and that
such proof is time-consuming, complex, and thus expensive.
The court finds it reasonable that work was done on the
motion over the course of several years. The court itself
required EarthGrains to engage in discovery and renew the
motion after such discovery if it was warranted.
Sycamores argue that EarthGrains is not entitled to attorneys
fees for legal research. However, the court finds no grounds
for precluding all recovery for legal research. While there
may not have been extensive legal case law cited in the
motion, that does not mean that legal issues were not
researched in connection with the motions and discovery
conducted in relation to the motions. The court will allow
$5, 000 of the $7, 200 requested for legal research.
addition, while the Sycamores' counsel argues that
EarthGrains' counsel's work is inefficient, the court
must recognize that the work that went into the motions led
to a successful result. This court is hesitant to take issue
with how much time is necessary to obtain successful results
and generally finds the work conducted to be reasonable in
light of the complicated history and circumstances of this
case. But the court will reduce some of the requested fees
for entries in which Mr. Burke simply stated, “work on
contempt motion.” Based on those vague entries, the
court will reduce the requested fees by $15, 340.00, which
equals 26 hours at the rate of $590. The court will also
reduce the requested fees related to administrative and
clerical discovery work by $8, 730.00, which equals 14 hours
at the rate of $275 and 16 hours at the rate of $305. The
court will also reduce the requested fees in connection with
the motion to appoint special master by $1, 785.00, which is
3 hours of time at the rate of $595. Otherwise, the court
finds no basis for reducing the requested fees.
the court reduces EarthGrains' $204, 866.94 fees request
by $2, 200 on legal research, $15, 340 on briefing, $8, 730
on discovery, and $1, 785 on the special master motion and
awards EarthGrains attorneys' fees in the amount of $176,
on the above reasoning and the reasons given in this
court's November 2, 2018 Memorandum Decision and Order,
the court awards EarthGrains attorneys' fees in
connection with its Renewed Motion for Contempt Sanctions and
the Sycamore Family's Motion to Appoint Special ...