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Gras v. Subcontracting Concepts, LLC

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

December 4, 2019

SEATON GRAS, Plaintiff
v.
SUBCONTRACTING CONCEPTS, LLC, PETER FIDOPIASTIS, and RYAN WISE, Defendants,

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' AND PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES

          BARBARA J. ROTHSTEIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court yet again is the topic of attorneys' fees. The Court previously denied a motion by Defendants seeking attorneys' fees for having to oppose Plaintiffs unsuccessful motion for reconsideration of the Court's order dismissing this matter for lack of personal jurisdiction. Undeterred, Defendants have moved again for attorneys' fees. In response, Plaintiff seeks attorneys' fees based on Defendants' second motion for attorneys' fees.

         Having reviewed the motions, the oppositions thereto, the record of the case, and the relevant legal authorities, the Court will deny both requests and consider this matter closed. The reasoning for the Court's decision follows.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The Court has discussed the background of this matter previously. See Dkt. No. 21 at 1-4; Dkt. No. 27 at 1-3. In brief, the heart of the matter involves the souring of a business relationship between the parties to develop software for an application targeted to the trucking industry. See Dkt. No. 21 at 2. The actual cause of action, however, was Plaintiffs claim that Defendants wiretapped and recorded a phone call in violation of Revised Code of Washington ("RCW") 9.73.030 and the common law tort of Invasion of Privacy. See Dkt. No. 1-1 at ¶¶ 41-49. On September 9, 2019, the Court dismissed the matter for lack of personal jurisdiction and the case was formally closed. Dkt. No. 21.

         Plaintiff moved the Court for reconsideration. Dkt. No. 22. In response, Defendants opposed reconsideration and moved the Court for attorneys' fees citing Washington Superior Court Civil Rule ("CR") 11 and RCW 4.84.185. Dkt. No. 26. According to Defendants, both Plaintiffs motion for reconsideration and his entire case were frivolous warranting attorneys' fees. Id. at 8-11. The Court denied both Plaintiffs motion for reconsideration and Defendants' motion for attorneys' fees, and while only citing to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") 11, specifically stated that the sanction of attorneys' fees was not warranted in this situation. Dkt. No. 27 at 4.

         Defendants, however, noting the Court's reference solely to FRCP 11, move the Court for attorneys' fees again this time focusing on RCW 4.84.185 claiming that Plaintiffs complaint in this matter was frivolous. Dkt. No. 29. Plaintiff, in response, oppose Defendants' motion for attorneys' fees and move for attorneys' fees claiming that Defendants' motion for attorneys' fees itself is frivolous based on the Court's previous denial of attorneys' fees. Dkt. No. 31.

         HI. LEGAL STANDARD

         RCW 4.84.185 provides for the awarding of "reasonable expenses, including fees of attorneys" where the Court, "upon written findings," determines that an action "was frivolous and advanced without reasonable cause." Wash. Rev. Code § 4.84.185. As compared to CR 11, which targets "baseless filings," RCW 4.84.185's purpose is to "discourage frivolous lawsuits and to compensate the targets of such lawsuits for fees and expenses incurred in fighting meritless cases." Haley v. Hume, 448 P.3d 803, 814 (Wash.Ct.App. 2019) (quoting Biggs v. Vail, 830 P.2d 350, 354 (Wash. 1992)).

         "A frivolous action is one that cannot be supported by any rational argument on the law or facts." Hanna v. Margitan, 373 P.3d 300, 308 (Wash.Ct.App. 2016) (quoting Rhinehart v. Seattle Times, Inc., 798 P.2d 1155, 1160 (Wash.Ct.App. 1990)). To be considered frivolous, "[t]he action must be frivolous in its entirety." Leahy v. Edmonds Sch. Dist., No. 07-1970, 2009 WL 529577, at *1 (W.D. Wash. Mar. 2, 2009) (citing Biggs, 830 P.2d at 352).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         As the parties have now often quoted, the Court in its order dismissing this matter for lack of personal jurisdiction stated that "[t]his is a unique case, and the Court is hard-pressed to find its kin." Dkt. No. 21 at 7. While the Court ultimately found that it did not have personal jurisdiction over the Defendants, the facts involving a cross-country teleconference presented a difficult question regarding the application of Washington's expansive wiretap law. This was not a frivolous endeavor on Plaintiffs part. The Court made no written findings, as required by RCW 4.84.185, that the suit was frivolous, nor did its order suggest frivolity. As such, Defendants' motions for attorneys' fees will be denied.

         Plaintiff now seeks attorneys' fees for having to oppose Defendants' second motion for attorneys' fees, which motion Plaintiff claims is frivolous. The Court will deny Plaintiffs motion as well. What is truly frivolous is counsels' prolonging this lawsuit in a battle over ...


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