United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR ATTORNEY
C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion for
attorney fees (Dkt. No. 35). Having thoroughly considered the
parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court
finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the motion
in part for the reasons explained herein.
underlying facts of this case have been discussed in a
previous order. (See Dkt. No. 33 at 1-4.) Plaintiffs
Noah and Rebecca Baskett filed a motion for attorney fees for
the resolved claims, including a claim that Defendants
“refus[ed] to pay the withheld depreciation, ”
which was resolved in Plaintiffs favor. (See Id. at
6.) Plaintiffs seek: (1) $66, 747 in attorney fees, with a
multiplier; (2) $3, 480 in legal assistant fees; and (3) $4,
916.86 in litigation expenses and costs. (Dkt. No. 35 at 1-3;
Dkt. No. 38 at ¶ 4.) Plaintiffs' counsel Joel Hanson
submits 234.2 hours of work, including 12.5 hours of work in
bringing this motion, at a rate of $285/hour. (Id.
at 5-9; Dkt. No. 38 at ¶ 4.) Defendant objects as to
liability. (Dkt. No. 36 at 1-3.) If Defendant is liable, it
objects to at least $798 in attorney fees, all legal
assistant fees, $3, 962.35 in litigation expenses and costs,
and any fee multiplier (Id. at 3-8.)
Entitlement to Fees and Costs
insurance coverage disputes, Washington law grants
plaintiffs' attorney fees when “the insurer compels
the insured to assume the burden of legal action, to obtain
the full benefit of his insurance contract[.]”
Olympic Steamship Co. v. Centennial Ins. Co., 811
P.2d 673, 681 (Wash. 1991); Ainsworth v. Progressive Cas.
Ins. Co., 322 P.3d 6, 21 (Wash.Ct.App. 2014). However,
plaintiffs are not entitled to attorney fees “if the
issue is merely a dispute about the value of a claim.”
Leingang v. Pierce Cty. Med. Bureau, Inc., 930 P.2d
288, 295 (Wash. 1995).
successful claim for breach of contract stems from an
insurance coverage dispute with Defendant.
“[C]overage disputes include both cases in which the
issue of any coverage is disputed and cases in which
‘the extent of the benefit provided by an insurance
contract' is at issue.” Id. Plaintiffs
successfully claimed that Defendant breached the contract by
“refusing to pay the withheld
depreciation.'” (Dkt. No. 1-3 at ¶ 3.10-12; Dkt.
No. 33 at 5-8.) The Court's decision hinged on a dispute
over whether Plaintiffs purchased a “new” home
within the meaning of their insurance policy, thereby
entitling them to coverage. (Dkt. No. 33 at 6.) This was not
a dispute as to the value of Plaintiffs' insurance
policy, but whether the policy extended to Plaintiffs'
chosen home. Such dispute was over insurance
coverage and it is thus appropriate to award
attorney fees to Plaintiffs for work performed in the effort
to obtain relief on that claim.
Calculation of Fees
attorney fees calculation is reasonable. The Court calculates
attorney fees by first calculating a “lodestar”
amount based on the attorney's reasonable hourly rate
multiplied by the number of hours reasonably expended on
necessary claim elements. Bowers v. Transamerica Title
Ins. Co, 675 P.3d 193, 201-02 (Wash. 1983). In
contingency fee cases, that amount may be adjusted by an
estimation of the risk assumed by the attorney in taking the
case on contingency. Id. When determining the
reasonableness of fees, courts should consider the
“purpose for authorizing the collection of such
fees.” San Juan City v. No New Gas Tax, 157
P.3d 831, 845- 46 (Wash. 2007).
determining hours for purposes of a lodestar calculation,
courts must first resolve any disputed issues of fact.
Miller v. Kenny, 325 P.3d 278, 303 (Wash.Ct.App.
2014). Plaintiffs seek fees for 221.7 hours of time. (Dkt.
No. 35 at 5-7.) Defendant requests at least 2.8 hours be
deducted to account for unsuccessful claims, wasted efforts,
and administrative tasks. (Dkt. No. 36 at 3-5.) However, only
2.5 of these hours are truly disputed. (Compare Dkt.
No. 36 at 4 (requesting a 0.3 hour deduction for
“[i]nvestigat[ing] another [unsuccessful] insurance
claim whether [Defendant] Country Mutual's adjusters had
warned people not to retain a public adjuster), with
Dkt. No. 35 at 43 (showing that 0.3 hours have already been
deducted from Plaintiffs' counsel's time sheets for
are entitled to the remaining disputed 2.5 hours in attorney
fees. It is inequitable in an insurance fee-shifting dispute
to “reduce the fee award by those amounts associated
with unsuccessful claims and/or vague descriptions.”
Security Ins. Co. of Hartford v. Sea ‘N Air
Travel, 2006 WL 1075219, at *2 (W.D. Wash. Apr. 20,
2006) “[T]o hold otherwise would leave the insured in a
worse position than if the insurer had promptly acknowledged
its coverage obligations, thereby defeating the Supreme
Court's clear intent to make the insured whole.”
Id. Plaintiffs have voluntarily discounted 4.3 hours
of time for unsuccessful claim work. (Dkt. No. 35 at 7.) In
light of the Court's equitable interests, the Court will
not attempt to parse out the remaining disputed hours, some
of which may have involved work on unsuccessful claims, and
some of which may have served Plaintiffs' successful
claim for breach of contract.
will the Court withhold fees due to Plaintiffs' submitted
time sheet redactions. Plaintiffs' redacted time entries
largely consist of emails or telephone conferences between
Plaintiffs and counsel. (Id. at 23.) Presumably, at
least some of these entries are redacted because they are
privileged conversations. As discussed above, to the extent
that such conversations involved unsuccessful claim work,
withholding fees would be inappropriate. The Court has not
been directed to any case that mandates the disclosure of
redacted or privileged information for purposes of attorney
fee determinations. Thus, ...