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Cabela's Wholesale Inc. v. Hawks Prairie Investment LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

April 25, 2014

CABELA'S WHOLESALE INC., Plaintiff,
v.
HAWKS PRAIRIE INVESTMENT LLC, Defendant.

ORDER ON HAWKS PRAIRIE'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS [DKT. # 281]

RONALD B. LEIGHTON, District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on Hawks Prairie's Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs as the prevailing party under the parties' contract. [Dkt. #281] Hawks Prairie seeks $1, 020, 322.67 in fees and costs[1] through the date of the Motion.

Cabela's opposes the Motion, arguing that it should be deferred pending the resolution of its appeal, in the interest of judicial economy. It also argues that the fee request is excessive, reflects time that could not or should not have been spent (at least not at the rates requested), and should generally be reduced by one third. Cabela's also opposes the cost application, claiming it is not properly supported.

A. Cabela's Appeal Does Not Warrant Deferral of This Motion.

As an initial matter, Cabela's appeal of the verdict and this Court's various rulings does not warrant deferral of the fee application any more than any other appeal of any other verdict does. The court will not defer consideration of the Motion based only on Cabela's confidence in the success of its appeal.

B. Attorneys' Fee Standard

The first step in determining reasonable fees is to calculate the lodestar figure, by taking the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation and multiplying it by the appropriate hourly rate. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). The Court should exclude overstaffed, redundant, or unnecessary time. Id. at 434. The Court must also consider the extent of Plaintiffs' success, as that is a "crucial factor" in determining an appropriate award. Id. at 440.

After determining the lodestar figure, the Court should then determine whether to adjust the lodestar figure up or down, based on factors not subsumed in the lodestar figure. These factors[2] were adopted in this Circuit by Kerr v. Screen Extras Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 69-70 (9th Cir. 1975) cert. denied, 425 U.S. 951 (1976). The applicability of the sixth (whether the fee is fixed or contingent) and tenth (the "undesirability" of the case) Kerr factors is doubtful after City of Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557 (1992); see also Davis v. City & County of San Francisco, 976 F.2d 1536, 1549 (9th Cir. 1992), vacated in part on other grounds, 984 F.2d 345 (9th Cir. 1993)(fixed vs. contingent nature of fee is not to be considered). Additionally, numerous courts have subsequently held that the bulk of these factors are subsumed in the lodestar calculation. See, for example, Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 898-900 (1984).

In any event, the lodestar calculation is presumptively reasonable, and adjustments (up are down) are appropriate only in rare and exceptional cases. Id., see also Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 483 U.S. 711, 728 (1987).

The lodestar calculation is similarly the starting point for determining a reasonable fee under Washington law. Scott Fetzer v. Weeks, 114 Wn.2d 109, 786 P.2d 265 (1990); Absher Constr. v. Kent Sch. Dist. No. 415, 79 Wash.App. 841, 847, 917 P.2d 1086 (1995). Washington's RPC 1.5 lists factors to be considered in evaluating the reasonableness of an attorney's fee:

(1) the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
(2) the likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;
(3) the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
(4) the amount involved and the results obtained;
(5) the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
(6) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and
(7) the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services.

RPC 1.5(a) (1)-(7). These factors are consistent with current Kerr factors, and Hawks Prairie asks the Court to evaluate its fee request with reference to them.

Cabela's does not dispute[3] theses standards, but does strenuously argue that the fees ...


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