California Judge Cuts Attorney’s Fee Request by Half for Quarter-Hour Billing and Duplicative Attorney Time

Posted on January 14th, 2015 by Legal Fee Advisors

In a recent California decision, a district court judge slashed requested attorney’s fees of $244,711.68 by roughly half for billing in quarter hour increments, duplicative attorney’s fees, and unnecessary travel expenses, among other reasons.

The case, Zest IP Holdings, LLC v. Implant Direct Mfg., LLC.[1] was originally brought by Plaintiffs alleging patent and trademark infringement. In August 2012, Plaintiffs brought a motion for monetary sanctions, due to Defendants’ discovery abuses. The Court granted the motion and Plaintiffs filed a statement of attorney’s fees and costs.

The Southern District Court Judge, assessing the reasonableness of the amount requested, first eliminated all paralegal fees because Plaintiff’s counsel failed to provide evidence that the paralegal rates sought represented the prevailing rates in the area. The judge further found that the attendance of a second attorney at oral hearings (as well as time spent in preparation), was unnecessary and duplicative, and reduced fees by an additional $5,805.00. Another $4,961.68 in costs was subtracted, to account for the second attorneys travel costs to and from a California hearing.

One of the largest reductions, 20% of the fee request or $29,180.05, was imposed due to the firm’s use of quarter hour increments. The judge found the practice likely to result in excessive hours billed. According to the Court, activities such as “discussions and meetings with co-counsel, drafting an email to co-counsel, participating in conference calls with co-counsel, and attending a client conference… likely took only a fraction of the time billed.”[2]

The court also implied that an additional reduction would have been applied for block billing, had Plaintiff’s counsel not already discounted their block billed hours by 20%. After all reductions, the Court awarded only $122,486.95 in fees and costs.

The decision illustrates the importance of proper timekeeping practices in the context of attorney’s fee requests. Billing in large increments and block billing are recognized by courts as likely to result in inflated fees, and district court judges will apply across the board reductions to account for such practices.

E. Bibelnieks
Legal Fee Advisors © 2015

[1] Zest IP Holdings, LLC v. Implant Direct Mfg., LLC, No. 10-CV-0541-GPC WVG, 2014 WL 6851612 (S.D. Cal. Dec. 3, 2014)

[2] Id.

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