United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER REGARDING ATTORNEY'S FEES AND LITIGATION
S. Lasnik United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on plaintiff's
“Motion for Award of Fees and Litigation
Expenses.” Dkt. # 17. Having reviewed the memoranda,
declarations, and exhibits submitted by the parties, the
Court finds as follows.
Roxanne Helling brought this matter's underlying action
against defendant Alaska Airlines, Inc. based on state and
federal statutes that provide for the recovery of reasonable
attorney's fees and litigation expenses by prevailing
plaintiffs. See 29 U.S.C. § 2617(a)(3); RCW
§ 49.60.030(2); id § 49.78.330(3). The
parties disposed of the underlying action in a judgment,
offered and accepted pursuant to Federal Civil Rule 68, which
settled on a principal amount of $90, 000, but left fees and
expenses to be determined by the motion before the Court.
Dkt. # 26. Plaintiff seeks $64, 872.50 in attorney's fees
and $4, 367.03 in litigation expenses. Dkt. # 17; Dkt. # 22
at 6. Defendant does not object to the requested litigation
expenses, but asks that the Court reduce the requested
attorney's fees by roughly half. Dkt. # 20.
determining a presumptively reasonable fee amount, courts
apply the lodestar method of multiplying a reasonable hourly
rate by the number of hours reasonably expended on the
litigation. Gonzalez v. City of Maywood, 729 F.3d
1196, 1202 (9th Cir. 2013). The reasonable hourly rate refers
to prevailing rates charged by attorneys of comparable skill
and experience in the relevant community. See Blum v.
Stetson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 (1984). In determining the
reasonable number of hours expended on the litigation, the
Court may exclude any excessive, redundant, or otherwise
unnecessary hours billed. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461
U.S. 424, 434 (1983). The Court may also adjust the lodestar
with reference to the factors set forth in Kerr v. Screen
Extras Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67 (9th Cir. 1975). Those
factors-the “Kerr factors”- include the
degree of success obtained and the novelty and difficulty of
the issues. Id. at 69-70.
Reasonableness of Rates and Hours
respect to the rates submitted, declarations submitted by the
attorneys who litigated plaintiff's case adequately
present their experience compared to comparable attorneys in
this district, Dkt. ## 18, 19; see United Steelworkers of
Am. v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 896 F.2d 403, 407 (9th Cir.
1990), and defendant does not appear to challenge the
reasonableness of those rates.
the hours requested, the burden of documenting those hours
falls on the party seeking fees. Hensley, 461 U.S.
at 433. As noted, the Court excludes excessive, redundant, or
otherwise unnecessary hours. Id. at 434.
Intra-office conferences between counsel, absent persuasive
justification, may be excluded from an award as unnecessary
and duplicative. See Welch v. Metro. Life Ins. Co.,
480 F.3d 942, 948 (9th Cir. 2007).
counsel has submitted time entries, Dkt. # 18, which the
Court has reviewed. The Court will not award fees for time
spent discussing the case between attorneys in the same
office or reviewing edits from co-counsel. The Court will
likewise deduct time plaintiff's attorneys spent
generally discussing the case with their own client, because
that type of activity is analogous to an intra-office
conference. The Court will also deduct time for entries that
appear purely administrative, including vague entries like
“Review case file status.” Dkt. # 18 at 11. Based
on those determinations, the Court will deduct $8, 507.50
from plaintiff's requested fees. The Court finds the
remaining hours requested to be reasonable. The Court
calculates the lodestar by deducting $8, 507.50 from $64,
872.50, the amount represented by plaintiff counsel as
otherwise equaling the hours expended multiplied by
applicable billing rates. That deduction yields a lodestar of
Adjustment of the Lodestar
argues the lodestar should be reduced based on several
Kerr factors. Dkt. # 20. First, defendant argues
that the results obtained were unsuccessful and do not
justify the fee award plaintiff seeks. In particular,
defendant argues plaintiff counsel did not succeed, because
the principal amount in the parties' agreed-upon
judgement is less than the damages figure plaintiff invoked
during discovery. A judgment offer pursuant to Rule 68
differs from an ordinary settlement offer, because a
plaintiff incurs additional risks by rejecting a Rule 68
offer. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 68(c) (requiring offeree to
pay costs incurred after unaccepted offer if final judgment
is not more favorable). The principal judgment amount must be
weighed in the context of the risks, costs, and inconvenience
plaintiff avoided by accepting defendant's Rule 68 offer
and foregoing further litigation. That plaintiff accepted
defendant's Rule 68 offer does not amount to a failure on
also argues that work following an unsuccessful mediation was
unnecessary, because plaintiff's ultimate recovery was
less than a settlement offer at the mediation. First, it is
not clear the mediation offer was actually more generous,
because there is no indication whether it included fees and
expenses. Second, it was reasonable for counsel to continue
working on plaintiffs case after the mediation failed.
Finally, the Court rejects defendant's reasoning based on
the difference explained above between an ordinary settlement
offer and a Rule 68 offer.
also invites the Court to reduce the lodestar because this
case did not present novel or difficult issues for an
experienced law partner like plaintiffs lead attorney.
Without defendant articulating why particular work was
unnecessary or excessive, the Court will not reduce the