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Bank v. Jefferson

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 8, 2016

Western Alliance Bank, Plaintiff,
v.
Richard Jefferson, Defendant. Richard Jefferson, Counter-claimant,
v.
Western Alliance Bank, Counter-defendant. Richard Jefferson, Third-party plaintiff,
v.
Theodore Kritza & Michelle Lee Kritza, Third-party defendants.

ORDER AND OPINION [RE: MOTION AT DOCKET 248]

JOHN W. SEDWICK SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

I. MOTION PRESENTED

The court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff and counter-defendant Western Alliance Bank (“Alliance”) at docket 246. At docket 248 Alliance applies for attorney’s fees and non-taxable costs. Defendant and counter-claimant Richard Jefferson (“Jefferson”) opposes at docket 262; Alliance replies at docket 272.

Oral argument was requested, but would not assist the court.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Attorney’s Fees

1. Alliance’s entitlement to attorney’s fees

After considering, but not explicitly addressing, the multi-factor standard outlined in Associated Indemnity Corporation v. Warner, [1] this court ruled that Alliance is entitled to an award of reasonable attorney’s fees pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-341.01.[2] Jefferson now brings two challenges to the court’s ruling based on one of the Associated Indemnity factors: whether “[t]he litigation could have been avoided or settled and the successful party’s efforts were completely superfluous in achieving the result.”[3]

Jefferson first argues that “a substantial portion of the attorney[’s] fees sought” could have been avoided had Alliance moved for summary judgment “at a much earlier point in the case.”[4] This argument rings hollow in light of the court’s findings that Jefferson’s litigation strategy was to delay for as long as possible the repayment of a debt he knowingly ratified. It was this litigation strategy, not Alliance’s reasonable efforts to obtain discovery and build its case, that prolonged resolution.

Second, Jefferson notes that Alliance’s billing records show that in February 2015 third-party defendant Ted Kritza (“Kritza”) withdrew his offer to settle Alliance’s action against Jefferson for $535, 000. Jefferson argues that “a substantial portion” of the attorney’s fees generated in this case could have been avoided if Alliance had accepted that offer.[5] In response, Alliance states that this offer was not “serious” because “Kritza had no financial ability to pay a more than $500, 000 settlement offer to Alliance and it was quickly withdrawn by Kritza.”[6] Under the circumstances, Alliance’s decision not to accept Kritza’s settlement offer was reasonable.

2. Reasonableness of the requested attorney’s fees

When analyzing attorney’s fees for reasonableness, the court must determine that: (1) the hourly billing rate is reasonable and (2) the hours expended on the case are reasonable.[7] Local Rule 54.2(c)(3) lists thirteen factors that courts should consider when determining the reasonableness of an attorney’s fee request. They are:

(A) The time and labor required by counsel;
(B) The novel and difficulty of the ...

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