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Harris v. Moore

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

April 18, 2017

STEPHANIE HARRIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BRAD MOORE, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          JAMES L. ROBART United Stales District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the court are two motions for attorneys' fees: (1) Plaintiffs Stefanie Harris, Margaret Harris, and Scott Harris's (collectively, "the Harrises") motion for fees (Harris Fees Mot. (Dkt. # 17)); and (2) Defendant Brad Moore's motion for fees, which Mr. Moore filed as personal representative of the Griffith Estate (Griffith Fees Mot. (Dkt. # 19)). Both motions arise from the court's order remanding this case to King County Superior Court for the second time. (See 3/1/17 Order (Dkt. # 16) at 5-6.) Defendant Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Company ("Travelers") opposes the motions. (Fees Resp. (Dkt. # 21).) Having considered the parties' submissions, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law, the court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the Harrises' motion and GRANTS the Griffith Estate's motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         In its recent order of remand, the court thoroughly recounted the facts underlying this case, which is one of several legal actions arising from a fatal automobile accident, (3/1/17 Order at 2-6.) The court granted the Harrises' and the Griffith Estate's motions to remand. (Id. at 7-11.) After also finding that Travelers lacked an objectively reasonable basis for removal, the court granted the Harrises' and the Griffith Estate's requests for fees in conjunction with remand. (Id. at 11-12 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c)).) Accordingly, the court directed the parties to submit letter briefs in support of and in opposition to reasonable costs and attorneys' fees. (Id. at 13.) Those letter briefs are now before the court.[1] (See Harris Fees Mot.; Griffith Fees Mot.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         As a threshold matter, the court rejects Travelers's belated attempt to relitigate whether the court should be award fees at all. (See Fees Resp. at 1-2.) In their motions to remand, the Harrises and the Griffith Estate explicitly sought fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). (See Harris MTR (Dkt. # 6) at 16-17; Griffith MTR (Dkt. # 8) at 5.) The court concluded that Travelers lacked an objectively reasonable basis for removal and awarded costs and fees to the Harrises and the Griffith Estate. (3/1/17 Order at 12.) In its response, Travelers acknowledges this portion of the court's order and effectively moves for reconsideration on that issue. (Fees Resp. at 1-2.) But Travelers fails to satisfy the procedural requirements or the substantive standard on a motion for reconsideration. See Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 7(h)(1) (requiring a showing of "manifest error" or "new facts or legal authority which could not have been brought to [the court's] attention earlier with reasonable diligence"), 7(h)(2) ("A motion for reconsideration shall be plainly labeled as such."). The court accordingly rejects Travelers's improperly presented argument that no fees should be awarded and turns to the reasonableness of the requested fees.

         A. Legal Standard for Reasonable Attorneys' Fees

         "Under a fee-shifting statute" such as 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), "the court 'must calculate awards for attorney[s'] fees using the 'lodestar' method." Staton v. Boeing Co., 37 F.3d 938, 965 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Ferland v. Conrad Credit Corp., 244 F.3d 1145, 1149 n.4 (9th Cir. 2001)); see also Sankary v. Ringgold, 601 F.App'x 529, 530 (9th Cir. 2015) (unpublished). "The 'lodestar' is calculated by multiplying the number of hours the prevailing party reasonably expended on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate." Morales v. City of San Rafael, 96 F.3d 359, 363 (9th Cir. 1996). Courts in the Ninth Circuit look to the factors enumerated in Kerr v. Screen Extras Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 70 (9th Cir. 1975), to determine the overall reasonableness of a fee request:

(1) the time and labor required, (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, (3) the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly, (4) the preclusion of other employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case,
(5) the customary fee, (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent, (7) time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances, (8) the amount involved and the results obtained, (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorneys, (10) the 'undesirability' of the case, (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client, and (12) awards in similar cases.

See also Ferland, 244 F.3d at 1149 n.4 (citing Van Gerwen v. Guarantee Mut. Life Co., 214 F.3d 1041, 1046 (9th Cir. 2000)) ("[T]he district court may, if circumstances warrant, adjust the lodestar to account for other factors which are not subsumed within it.").

         B. The Harrises' Motion

         The court agrees with Travelers that the $20, 000.00 to $27, 500.00 lodestar that the Harrises request is insufficiently supported and unreasonable. (See-Fees Resp. at 2.) The Harrises' lead counsel, Andrew Hoyal, attests that he spent more than 40 hours preparing the motion to remand and at least 10 hours on the reply brief. (Hoyal Decl. ¶¶ 7-8.) However, the Harrises provide minimal detail regarding how Mr. Hoyal spent this time. (See id.) Furthermore, the Griffith Estate's counsel, Jennifer P. ...


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