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Franchise Holding Ii LLC v. Huntington Restaurants Group Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 24, 2014

Franchise Holding II LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
Huntington Restaurants Group Incorporated, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DAVID C. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff filed a complaint on June 25, 2012 asserting a claim for breach of contract. Doc. 1. The Court granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on January 8, 2014 and awarded Plaintiff damages in the amount of $12, 800, 000 plus prejudgment interest. Doc. 86. Plaintiff now asks the Court to award attorneys' fees in the amount of $71, 930.82 in connection with this action. Doc. 89. The motion is fully briefed and no party has requested oral argument. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion.

I. Legal Standard.

Under Arizona law, "[i]n any contested action arising out of a contract, express or implied, the court may award the successful party reasonable attorney fees." A.R.S. ยง 12-341.01(A). To determine whether an award of attorneys' fees is appropriate, courts consider a number of factors, including: (1) the merits of the unsuccessful party's claim; (2) whether the litigation could have been avoided or settled and whether the successful party's efforts were completely superfluous in achieving the ultimate result; (3) whether assessing fees against the unsuccessful party would cause extreme hardship; (4) whether the successful party prevailed with respect to all relief sought; (5) whether the legal question presented was novel or had been previously adjudicated; and (6) whether a fee award would discourage other parties with tenable claims from litigating. Velarde v. PACE Membership Warehouse, Inc., 105 F.3d 1313, 1319-20 (9th Cir. 1997); Associated Indemn. Corp. v. Warner, 694 P.2d 1181, 1184 (Ariz. 1985) (en banc); Uyleman v. D.S. Rentco, 981 P.2d 1081, 1086 (Ariz.Ct.App. 1999).

II. Analysis.

A. Appropriateness of Awarding Fees.

Defendants do not dispute that this action arose out of contract. Doc. 90. The Court will individually consider each of the six factors outlined above.

1. Whether Defendants' Claim was Meritorious.

As noted above, the Court granted summary judgment for Plaintiff. Doc. 86. Defendants do not advance any new arguments concerning the merit of their position. This factor favors Plaintiff.

2. Whether the Litigation Could Have Been Avoided.

Defendants argue that "this litigation might well have been avoided had Plaintiff simply renewed its original judgment." Doc. 90 at 2. Plaintiff responds that when Defendants stopped making payments under their Stay Agreement with Plaintiff, the original judgment had expired and Plaintiff had "no other recourse other than to initiate this action against Defendants." Doc. 91 at 2. The Court agrees. This factor favors Plaintiff.

3. Whether Assessing Fees Would Cause Extreme Hardship.

Defendants argue that "the Beatties are effectively precluded from receiving compensation from any of the defendant businesses and are limited in their ability to form new businesses." Doc. 90 at 2-3. They further argue that "[a] large fee award just adds to the heavy financial burden the Beatties already suffer under." Id. at 3. Defendants, however, have not provided any evidence of financial hardship. "[T]he party asserting financial hardship has the burden of coming forward with prima facie evidence of financial hardship." ...


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