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Ford Motor Credit Co. LLC v. Gilbert

United States District Court, D. Oregon

May 26, 2017

FORD MOTOR CREDIT COMPANY LLC, fka MOTOR CREDIT COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID L. GILBERT, ROBERT G. ILER, and BRUCE-GILBERT, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER

          JOLIE A. RUSSO United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Ford Motor Credit Company LLC initiated this action against defendants David Gilbert, Robert Iler, and Bruce-Gilbert, Inc. A default judgment was subsequently entered against all defendants. Plaintiff now moves for an award of attorney fees in the amount of $26, 275, costs in the amount of $819.99, and additional expenses in the amount of $604.58. For the reasons set forth below, attorney fees are awarded in the reduced sum of $16, 433.80, costs are awarded in full, and expenses are disallowed.

         BACKGROUND

         On August 25, 2015, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court asserting claims premised on defendants' alleged material breach of the parties' capital loan agreement. On December 1, 2015, plaintiff moved for default based on defendants' failure to timely answer or otherwise respond to the complaint. The Court granted plaintiff's motion and entered default against defendants on January 25, 2016.

         On February 3, 2017, plaintiff moved for a default judgment and attorney fees, costs, and expenses. On April 11, 2017, the Court granted judgment against defendants but denied plaintiff's motion in all other respects. On May 11, 2017, plaintiff filed motions for attorney fees, expenses, and costs.

         STANDARD

         Pursuant to the prevailing party's motion, the court may award reasonable attorney fees and costs. Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d); LR 54. In determining a reasonable attorney fee, the court employs the lodestar method by first multiplying “the number of hours the prevailing party reasonably expended on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate.” Morales v. City of San Rafael, 96 F.3d 359, 363 (9th Cir. 1996) (as amended). The court then considers whether it is necessary to adjust the presumptively reasonable lodestar figure in light of the twelve factors articulated in Kerr v. Screen Guild Extras, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 70 (9th Cir. 1975). Id.

         The court is required to ensure an award's reasonableness, irrespective of any opposition from the non-prevailing party. Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1400-02 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Corder v. Gates, 947 F.2d 374, 378 n. 3 (9th Cir. 1991) (“the reasonable fee, as calculated by the district court, may fall short of the actual fee that the plaintiff's lawyer charges”) (citation and internal quotations omitted). “[C]onsiderable discretion [is vested in the court] in determining what attorney's fee is reasonable.” Webb v. Ada Cnty., Idaho, 195 F.3d 524, 526-27 (9th Cir. 1999).

         DISCUSSION

         It is undisputed that plaintiff is the prevailing party and therefore entitled to attorney fees pursuant to the parties' contract. See generally Ayres Aff. (doc. 15); Judgment (doc. 16). Accordingly, the primary issue before the Court is the reasonableness of the requested rates and hours.

         I. Reasonableness of the Requested Rates

         Plaintiff employed two Portland, Oregon, attorneys (Jason Ayres and Kimberly McGair), five attorneys admitted pro hac vice from Buffalo, New York (Joanna Dickinson, Paul Morrison-Taylor, Craig Leslie, Joanna Chen, and Michael Silverstein), and two paralegals (Laura Kryta and Kathleen Biddle) on this matter. Ayres Decl. ¶¶ 3-5 (doc. 18); Dickinson Decl. ¶¶ 3-4 (doc. 19). Plaintiff seeks the following hourly rates: $275 for Ayres, who has 17 years of experience; $340 for McGair, who has 19 years of experience; $270-$285 for Dickinson, who has 15 years of experience; $380-$390 for Morrison-Taylor, who has 37 years of experience; $345-$360 for Leslie, who has 20 years of experience; $190 for Chen, who has six years of experience; $185 for Silverstein, who has four years of experience; and $165 for Kryta and $130-$135 for Biddle. Id.

         A reasonable rate for legal services is “calculated according to the prevailing market rates in the relevant community.” McElmurry v. U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n, 2008 WL 1925119, *3 (D. Or. Apr. 30, 2008) (quoting Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 (1984)). “This District considers the most recent Oregon State Bar Economic Survey” - i.e. the 2012 Oregon State Economic Survey (“2012 OSB Survey”) - as its ‘initial benchmark' in determining whether hourly billing rates are reasonable.” Prison Legal News v. Umatilla Cnty., 2013 WL 2156471, *4 (D. Or. May 16, 2013) (citations omitted). “If the rate requested exceeds the average rate reported in the OSB Survey, the burden is on the prevailing party to justify that higher rate.” Id. (citation omitted).

         Initially, plaintiff implies that the “relevant communities” for the purposes of determining a reasonable hourly rate are Buffalo, New York, and Portland, Oregon, because that is where counsel is located. See, e.g., Ayres Decl. ¶ 5 (doc. 18); Dickinson Decl. ¶ 5 (doc. 19). The Court disagrees and finds that the “Lower Valley” - which the 2012 OSB Survey defines as “Benton, Lane, and Linn Counties” - should serve as the relevant community. 2012 OSB Survey 5. Notably, plaintiff filed this case in the Eugene Division, which encompasses, amongst others, Benton, Lane, and Linn counties. See Prison Legal News, 2013 WL 2156471 at *5 (“[t]he general rule is that the relevant community for purposes of the prevailing rate is the forum in which the district court sits”) (citation and internal quotations omitted). Further, plaintiff does not provide any argument or evidence evincing that local counsel was unavailable or inadequate. See generally Pl.'s Mot. Att'y Fees (doc. 17); Ayres Decl. (doc. 18); Dickinson Decl. (doc. 19); see alsoCamac ...


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