United States District Court, D. Arizona
Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge.
prevailed on all claims in this action, Defendants JPMorgan
Chase Bank, N.A. (“Chase”) and Bank of America,
N.A. (“BANA”) move for an award of attorneys'
fees against Plaintiff Patricia Garcia pursuant to the fee
shifting provisions in Garcia's promissory note
(“Note”) and corresponding deed of trust
(“DOT”), and A.R.S. § 12-341.01. (Doc. 294.)
The motion is fully briefed (Docs. 300, 303), neither party
requested oral argument, and the relevant factual background
may be found in the Court's April 5, 2017 order granting
summary judgment for Defendants in this case (Doc. 278), and
its June 22, 2017 order dismissing the related case of
Garcia v. JPMorgan Chase Bank NA, et al., No.
CV-16-01023-PHX-DLR (“Garcia II”) (Doc.
117 in Garcia II). For the following reasons,
Defendants' motion is granted.
argue that four provisions in the Note and DOT require the
Court to award reasonable attorneys' fees in this case.
These same provisions were the basis of Defendants'
entitlement to attorneys' fees in Garcia II, in
which the Court concluded that Defendants' defense of the
action fell within the scope of the fee-shifting provisions
because Garcia's claims challenged Defendants' rights
under and interest in the Note and DOT. (Doc. 160 in
Garcia II at 8-11.) The Court's discussion of
the pertinent contractual provisions in the context of
Garcia II is equally applicable here.
argues that, unlike in Garcia II, Defendants'
defense of this action does not fall within the scope of the
contractual fee-shifting provisions. She contends that this
action is more akin to the case of Rich v. BAC Home Loans
Servicing L.P., No. CV-11-00511-PHX-DLR, 2015 WL
12090226 (D. Ariz. Mar. 20, 2015), aff'd in relevant
part by Rich v. Bank of Am., N.A., 666 Fed.Appx. 635
(9th Cir. 2016), in which this Court found that the
various statutory and tort claims were premised on
allegations that Defendant had engaged in wrongful conduct
separate and apart from the terms of the Note and Deed of
Trust. Simply put, Defendant did not initiate this action to
pursue its remedies under the Note and Deed of Trust, nor did
Plaintiffs' properly pled claims directly challenge
Defendant's authority under those instruments.
Id. at *3. Garcia argues that her statutory and tort
claims likewise are outside the scope of the fee-shifting
reliance on Rich is misplaced. She largely ignores
that, in Rich, the Court awarded fees to the
defendant pursuant to materially similar contractual
fee-shifting provisions for its defense of a belatedly
introduced “unfunded loan” theory that “was
a direct challenge” to the defendant's
“ability and authority to collect on the Note.”
Id. Here, unlike in Rich, Garcia's
direct challenge to Defendants' rights under and interest
in the Note and DOT was not belatedly introduced. As
thoroughly detailed in the Court's June 22, 2017
dismissal order in Garcia II, Garcia has used this
litigation to challenge Defendants' rights under and
interest in the Note and DOT since the case's inception,
notwithstanding the formal labels attached to her claims.
(See Doc. 117 in Garcia II.) Accordingly,
for substantially the same reasons articulated in the
Court's March 30, 2018 order granting Defendants'
motion for attorneys' fees in Garcia II (Doc.
160 in Garcia II), the Court finds that Defendants
are entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys' fees in
this case pursuant to the fee-shifting provisions in
Garcia's Note and DOT.
reasonable attorneys' fees are sought pursuant to a
contractual provision, a fee award must be supported by proof
of what is reasonable. Schweiger v. China Doll Rest.,
Inc., 673 P.2d 927, 931 (Ariz.Ct.App. 1983). “A
fee award calculated by a lodestar method-multiplying a
reasonable hourly rate by the number of hours expended-is
presumptively reasonable.” Flood Control Dist. of
Maricopa Cty. v. Paloma Inv. Ltd. P'ship, 279 P.3d
1191, 1212 (Ariz.Ct.App. 2012).
Once the prevailing party makes a prima facie case that the
fees requested are reasonable, the burden shifts to the party
opposing the fee request to establish that the amount
requested is clearly excessive. If that party fails to make
such a showing of unreasonableness, the prevailing party is
entitled to full payment of the fees. If, however, the party
opposing the award shows that the otherwise prima facie
reasonable fee request is excessive, the court has discretion
to reduce the fees to a reasonable level.
Geller v. Lesk, 285 P.3d 972, 976 (Ariz.Ct.App.
analyzing the reasonableness of a requested fee award, the
Court begins by determining the billing rate charged by the
attorneys who worked on the case. Schweiger, 673
P.2d at 931. “[I]n corporate and commercial litigation
between feepaying clients, there is no need to determine the
reasonable hourly rate prevailing in the community for
similar work because the rate charged by the lawyer to the
client is the best indication of what is reasonable under the
circumstances of the particular case.” Id. at
931-32. However, “upon the presentation of an opposing
affidavit setting forth the reasons why the hourly billing
rate is unreasonable, the court may utilize a lesser
rate.” Id. at 932.
reviewed Defendants' supporting documentation, the Court
finds that the hourly rates charged by Defense Counsel are
reasonable. In doing so, the Court again rejects Garcia's
argument, previously made and rejected in the context of
Garcia II, that these rates are unreasonably high
because the results of a 2013 survey conducted by the Arizona
State Bar indicated that the mean billing rates for attorneys
and paralegals are lower. These survey results are several
years old and discuss factors such as firm ...