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Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 28, 2016



Janet Bond Arterton, U.S.D.J.

Following this Court’s ruling granting with modification Plaintiff’s Motion for Attorneys’ Fees, Plaintiff moves [Doc. # 508] for fees and costs expended in litigating the motion for attorneys’ fees and other post-trial motions. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff’s motion is granted with modification.

I. Legal Standard

In determining a reasonable attorney’s fee under CUTPA or the Patent Act, courts begin by assessing what hourly rate a reasonable client would be willing to pay, keeping in mind the factors enumerated by the Fifth Circuit in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir. 1974).[1] Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Ass’n v. Cnty. of Albany, 493 F.3d 110, 118 (2d Cir. 2007) (“Arbor Hill I”), amended on other grounds by 522 F.3d 182, 184 (2d Cir. 2008) (“Arbor Hill II”) (determining reasonable fees in the context of 42 U.S.C. § 1988); see Emerald Investments, LLC v. Porter Bridge Loan Co., No. CIV.A. 3:05-CV-1598J, 2007 WL 1834507, at *5 (D. Conn. June 25, 2007) (applying the Arbor Hill approach in a CUTPA case to calculate the presumptively reasonable fee); City of Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 561-62 (1992) (holding that because many federal fee-shifting statutes use the language “reasonable attorney fees, ” “case law construing what is ‘reasonable’ applies uniformly to all of them”). Courts “then use that reasonable hourly rate to calculate . . . the ‘presumptively reasonable fee.’” Arbor Hill I, 493 F.3d at 118. Once the court has determined the “presumptively reasonable fee, ” it “may still adjust that amount” upward or downward “based on relevant factors specific to the instant case, ” such as the level of success the plaintiff attained.[2] Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Co. v. Bridgeport Port Auth., No. 3:03-CV-599 (CFD), 2011 WL 721582, at *3 (D. Conn. Feb. 22, 2011).

II. Discussion

Plaintiff, who was represented by three law firms in this case, seeks fees totaling $395, 556.25[3] ($176, 050.00[4] for Brenner, Saltzman & Wallman LLP (“BSW”), $211, 541.25[5] for Cooper & Dunham LLP (“CD”), and $7, 965.00 for Wiggin and Dana LLP (“WD”)), expert fees totaling $4, 172, and costs totaling $13, 328.96. (Suppl. Mot. for Fees at 1-3, 9.)

Defendants do not object to the hourly rates sought by Plaintiff’s counsel. Instead, they argue: (1) the hours claimed by Plaintiff’s counsel are unreasonably high; and (2) the presumptively reasonable fee should be reduced to account for Plaintiff’s limited success.

A. Reasonableness of Hours Requested

Defendants contend that Plaintiff should not recover fees for several unsuccessful motions, and that the number of hours for which Plaintiff seeks compensation is unreasonably high. They seek a 20% reduction in the number of hours claimed.

Specifically, Defendants assert that Plaintiff should not be awarded fees for time spent on its unsuccessful motion to compel production of Defendants’ billing records and the related subpoenas, nor should it be awarded fees for time spent on its opposition to Defendants’ Rule 50/59 motion (although the Court denied the motion without prejudice) because that motion related to the issue of profits. (Opp’n [Doc. # 517] at 12, 13.) Plaintiff responds that “the fact that the Court, in its discretion, concluded that it did not need Defendants’ billing records to decide the issues before it does not mean that the effort to obtain those records was unjustified, ” and with respect to the Rule 50/59 motion, Plaintiff should be able to recover its fees because it succeeded in “persuad[ing] the Court to deny Fossil the relief it requested.” (Reply [Doc. # 518] at 6.)

The arguments of both parties have merit. Plaintiff’s motion to compel was unquestionably unsuccessful, and because that work is separable from other, compensable work, a reduction is appropriate. However, no reduction is appropriate with respect to Plaintiff’s work in opposing Defendants’ Rule 50/59 motion because, as Plaintiff notes, it succeeded in that endeavor. Based on a review of Plaintiff’s billing records, the Court concludes that reduction of $22, 666.50 ($14, 625 from BSW and $8, 041.50 from CD; WD does not appear to have worked on these issues) for work spent on the subpoenas and motion to compel is appropriate.

The Court does not, however, find any demonstrated merit in Defendants’ contention that Plaintiff has claimed an unreasonably high number of hours for work on its fee petition, which required organizing and sorting through invoices spanning four years, a mammoth task in any case, but particularly here, given the level of contentiousness that has pervaded this litigation. Therefore, no further reduction will be taken from Plaintiff’s claimed hours.

B. Adjustments

Defendants next seek a reduction of 1/3 to account for Plaintiff’s limited success in their fee application. Although the Supreme Court has “rejected a per se proportionality rule, i.e., proportionally linking the prevailing party’s attorneys’ fees to the degree of monetary success achieved, City of Riverside v. Rivera, 477 U.S. 561, 578 (1986), it has also held that “the most critical factor” in determining the reasonableness of a fee award “is the degree of success obtained, ” Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 114 (1992). Because “the product of hours reasonably expended on the litigation as a whole times a reasonable hourly rate may be an excessive amount” where the “plaintiff has achieved only partial or limited ...

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