United States District Court, D. Minnesota
G.C., and J.C. by their next friend and Mother Angela Tsiang, Plaintiffs,
South Washington County School District 833, and Dr. Keith Jacobus, Superintendent of the South Washington County School 833, Defendants.
J.E. Markham, II, (for Plaintiffs).
P. Edison & Michael Waldspurger, Rupp, Anderson, Squires,
and Waldspurger, (for Defendants).
N. Leung United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the Court for an award of reasonable
attorney fees and costs in connection with the Court's
prior ruling on Defendants' Motion for Payment of
Experts' Fees and Sanctions. ECF Nos. 109, 128. For the
reasons that follow, the Court orders Plaintiffs to pay $4,
025.07 as reasonable costs and fees associated with that
December 19, 2018, Defendants filed a motion seeking an order
(1) compelling Plaintiffs to pay fees that they owed to
Defendants' experts for their depositions; (2) stating
that Defendants are not responsible for compensating
Plaintiffs' expert for an August 2, 2018 deposition; (3)
requiring Plaintiffs to reimburse Defendants for costs and
fees they incurred with the August 2, 2018 deposition of
Plaintiffs' expert; and (4) awarding Defendants the costs
and fees associated with bringing their motion. ECF No. 109.
The Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants'
motion, ordering Plaintiffs to pay Defendants' experts
their deposition fees and to pay to Defendants the reasonable
costs and fees that Defendants incurred in bringing their
motion to compel payment of the deposition fees. The Court
denied Defendants' motion for payment of costs and fees
in all other respects. ECF No. 128. The Court ordered
Defendants to file an affidavit detailing their fees and
costs, and permitted the Plaintiffs to file a response to
Defendants' affidavit. ECF No. 128. Those filings were
submitted respectively on February 27, 2019 and March 6,
2019. ECF Nos. 129, 130.
seek reimbursement in the amount of $5, 427.12. ECF No. 129
at 2. Plaintiffs agree that, of that amount, $1, 922.00 is
clearly identifiable as costs that Defendants incurred in
bringing their motion to compel payment of their expert fees.
Plaintiffs dispute, however, the remaining $3, 505.12 that
Defendants seek. Defendants concede that this amount is not
calculated from billing entries that are specifically
attributable to the portion of the motion for which fees and
costs were awarded. Rather, it is twenty-five percent of $14,
020.50, which is the amount that Defendants say correlates to
entries that “are generally related to the Motion [to
compel payment] and were not broken down in a way that can be
specifically apportioned to only the non-payment of Dr.
Foster and Dr. Rasimas and not other issues raised in the
Motion.” ECF No. 129 at 3. Defendants assert that
twenty-five percent of this amount “fairly represents
the amount of time Defendants' counsel spent on the
portion of the motion” related to payment of their
expert fees. ECF No. 129 at 3. Plaintiffs assert the Court
should limit the award to, at most, 10 percent of the total
amount of time spent on the motion. ECF No. 130.
attorney fees are appropriate, courts typically use the
‘lodestar' method for calculating a reasonable
award.” Paris Sch. Dist. v. Harter, 894 F.3d
885, 889 (8th Cir. 2018). “The lodestar is calculated
by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by the
reasonable hourly rates.” Paris. Sch. Dist., 894
F.3d at 889 (quotation omitted). Thus, in calculating the
lodestar, the Court may exclude from hours that were not
“reasonably expended.” Sierra Petroleum Co.
v. Beaudry Oil & Serv., Inc, No. 08-cv-6466
(ADM/SER), 2011 WL 13199285, at *8 (D. Minn. Mar. 7, 2011)
(citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433
(1983); Gumbhir v. Curators of the Univ. of Mo., 157
F.3d 1141, 1146 (8th Cir. 1998)).
addition, the Court may reduce an award of attorney's
fees under the lodestar method when “the documentation
of hours is inadequate.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at
433. The “party petitioning the court for
attorney's fees has the burden of producing evidence that
those fees are appropriate.” MacGregor v.
Mallinckrodt, Inc., No. 01-cv-828 (DSD/SRN), 2003 WL
23335194, at *13 (D. Minn. July 21, 2003) (citing
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437; H.G. Inc. v. Flygt
Corp., 925 F.2d 257, 260 (8th Cir. 1991)). This means
that the fee applicant bears the burden of documenting the
appropriate hours expended. Flygt, 925 F.2d at 260
(citing International Travel Arrangers, Inc. v. Western
Airlines, Inc., 623 F.2d 1255, 1275 (8th Cir. 1980));
see also Heimerl v. Tech Elec. of Minn.,
Inc., No. 12-cv-612 (SRN/SER), 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
200389, at *16 (D. Minn. Sept. 8, 2014) (citing Starr
Indem. & Liab. Co. v. Cont'l Cement Co.,
L.L.C., 11-cv-809 (JAR), 2012 WL 6012904, at *5
(E.D. Mo. Dec. 3, 2012) (stating that the challenging party
is entitled to know “what the particular task
was” for which reimbursement is sought).
Court believes that, while Defendants met their burden to
provide adequate documentation regarding the $1, 922.00 that
they requested, they failed to do so regarding the additional
$3, 505.12 that they claim. The billing entries that
Defendants rely on for this additional amount do not allocate
time between claims for which the Court awarded fees and
claims for which the Court did not award fees. For example,
one entry reads, “Review and edit memorandum of law in
support of motion to compel payment of defendant's
experts, obtain attorney fees related to same, obtain relief
from obligation to pay Dr. Heuser's fees, and recover
costs and fees related to Dr. Heuser's
deposition[.]” ECF No. 129-1 at 14. The Court cannot
determine from this entry what amount of time was spent on
the motion to compel payment of Defendants' expert fees
and what time was spent on issues for which the Court did not
award costs and fees. Because the Court “cannot
determine the appropriate fee from the record, it must
exercise its discretion in reducing the fee award.”
MacGregor, 2003 WL 23335194, at *13 (citing
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433, 437).
Court understands that this was a wide-ranging motion that
addressed many issues. Defendants, however, have the burden
of producing evidence that the fees are appropriate, and did
not satisfy that burden here. But given the difficulties in
billing in specificity on a complex, multi-issue motion, the
Court does not feel it is appropriate to exclude all of the
contested billing time from the Defendants' award.
Instead, the Court will reduce Defendants' award from 25
percent of the $14, 020.50 in general billing entries related
to the motion to 15 percent of those entries. This results in
a total fees and cost award of $4, 025.07, which is a 25.8
percent reduction from Defendants' original cost and fee
request of $5, 427.12. That result is consistent with
decisions reached in other cases where parties presented
inadequate documentation of attorney fees. See
Flygt, 925 F.2d at 260 (affirming reduction of an award
by 20 percent for inadequate documentation); Richemont
Int'l, S.A. v. Clarkson, No. 07-cv-1641 (JRT/FLN),
2008 WL 4186254, at *2 (D. Minn. Sept. 5, 2008) (reducing the
award by 20 percent for inadequate documentation); Grimm
v. Cent. Landscaping, Inc., No. 07-cv-3215 (JNE/SRN),
2008 WL 3896270, at *3 (D. Minn. Aug. 19, 2008) (applying a
50 percent reduction in fee request based on a lack of
documentation, which rendered the court unable to determine
the number of hours spent on an unsuccessful claim);
Frerichs v. Hartford Life & Acc. Ins. Co., No.
10-cv-3340 (SRN/LIB), 2012 WL 3734124, at *5 (D. Minn. Aug.
28, 2012) (reducing the hourly rate requested by 31 percent
for lack of proper documentation). Utecht v. Diamond
Lake, Inc., No. 16-cv-118 (JRT/FLN), 2017 WL 6734178, at
*7 (D. Minn. Dec. 29, 2017) (reducing the hours claimed by 25
percent to account for inadequate documentation). The Court
will therefore order Plaintiffs to pay Defendants a total
attorney's fees and cost award of $4, 025.07.
on the foregoing, and all of the files, records, and
proceedings herein, ...