Court Carves 45% off Fee Request for Billing for Unrelated Tasks and Undescriptive Time Entries
Posted on August 10th, 2017 by Legal Fee Advisors
By Jillian Robbins.
The Northern District of Texas granted a Plaintiff’s motion for sanctions in the form of reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses as a result of discovery misconduct on the part of Defendants in March 2015. Shortly thereafter, the Plaintiff sought a motion to award such fees and expenses, seeking a total of $447,154.21. In making an award of only $9,479.95 in expenses, the Court declined to award Plaintiff the full $95,604.71 requested, as much of the expenses claimed related to expert expenses that were not related to the discovery misconduct. Additionally, the Court found that some of the Plaintiff’s attorneys time entries were unreasonably vague and block-billed, thus the Court reduced the entire fee and expense request by an additional 30%, awarding only $247,566.40 in total.
The Court first agreed with the Defendants that $4,080.00 of the Plaintiff’s fee request was properly reducible because the entries were not at all related to the discovery misconduct. Although Plaintiff argued that such time was spent preparing for trial and providing a report to the judge, the Court explained that Plaintiff would have had to perform these tasks regardless of whether or not there was discovery misconduct and that such tasks were therefore not recoverable.
Next, the Court determined that a vast majority of the expert expenses incurred were not recoverable for similar reasons. The Plaintiff requested a total of $95,604.71 relating to these experts reviewing certain documents for trade secrets, with the Court awarding only $9,479.95. The Court explained that the Plaintiff “would have incurred these expenses even if Defendants had originally produced the documents,” thus these expenses did not sufficiently relate to the discovery misconduct at issue. Additionally, the Plaintiff had already recovered $8,817.50 in attorneys’ fees relating to the experts’ work, thus the additional request of $95,000 was held to be unreasonable.
While the Court found that most of the Plaintiff’s attorneys time entries were neither vague nor block-billed, there were still some questionable entries that warranted a reduction. The Court determined that a 10% reduction was warranted for time entries that were “difficult to distinguish,” and that an additional 10% reduction was warranted for “overly redacted entries and a lack of billing judgment.” For example, the Court determined that entries such as “review document,” “attention to emails,” and “calls,” were vague. The Court next determined that an additional 10% reduction was appropriate for block-billed entries such as a 4.6 hour time entry for “telephone call; work on exhibits for sanctions motion.”
The Court’s opinion in this case illustrates that if time entries are not specific enough, or if there are multiple tasks within one time entry, the Court will not hesitate in reducing the amount of fees requested. Additionally, when making a request for fees and expenses based on a specific successful motion, to avoid large reductions, attorneys should make sure that such charges requested sufficiently relate to the motion itself, and not just to the case as a whole.
Thermotek, Inc. v. Orthoflex, Inc., No. 3:11-CV-870-D, 2016 WL 6330429 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 27, 2016).
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