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Bell v. VF Jeanswear LP

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 28, 2019

Lori Bell, Plaintiff,
VF Jeanswear LP, et al., Defendants.


          Honorable John J. Tuchi, United States District Judge.

         At issue are Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees and Related Non-Taxable Expenses (Doc. 248); her Supplemental Motion for Attorney Fees (Doc. 274); and her Addendum to Supplemental Fee Application (Doc. 280). Defendant filed Responses (Docs. 259, 277, 281) in opposition to each of the above, respectively, and Plaintiff filed Replies (Docs. 266, 279, 282) in support of each, respectively. Both parties filed multiple memoranda, declarations and other attachments in support of their motion practice, which the Court has read and considered thoroughly. The Court finds the matter appropriate for resolution without oral argument. See LRCiv 7.2(f). It grants in part and denies in part Plaintiff's Motion and Supplemental Motion as set forth below.

         I. Relevant Procedural History

         In her First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleged five causes of action: 1) violation of the Equal Pay Act (“EPA”), 29 U.S.C. § 215 et seq., ; 2) retaliation under the EPA; 3) Sex discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (“Title VII claim”); 4) Age discrimination in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 623 (“ADEA claim”); and 5) violation of the Arizona Wage Act, A.R.S. § 23-353 (“AWA claim”). The Court granted Defendant summary judgment on Plaintiff's retaliation and ADEA claims. (Doc. 108.) After a trial from March 21 to 31, 2017, a jury found that Defendant violated Title VII by discriminating against Plaintiff, its former employee, on the basis of sex and awarded Plaintiff a total of $528, 000 in damages at law. (Doc. 204.) The jury found for Defendant on Plaintiff's Equal Pay Act and Arizona Wage Act claims. (Doc. 204.)

         The Court then held a three-day bench trial between May 4 and 11, 2017, after which the Court entered an Order setting forth its findings of fact and conclusions as to Plaintiff's equitable damages for Defendant's violation of Title VII. (Doc. 243, Damages Order.) The Court also limited the $528, 000 jury award of compensatory and punitive damages to $300, 000, as provided by 42 U.S.C. § 1982a(b)(3). In sum, the Court determined that Plaintiff was entitled to $300, 000 in compensatory and punitive damages and $206, 928.06 in equitable damages.

         Plaintiff filed the instant motions seeking a total of $1, 963, 319.25 in attorneys' fees and related non-taxable expenses, comprised of $1, 860, 836.75 (Doc. 250, Application), $92, 019.50 (Doc. 274, Supplement), and $10, 463.00 (Doc. 280, Addendum).[1]

         II. Law and Analysis

         As Plaintiff prevailed on her Title VII sex discrimination claim, Defendant does not dispute that she is entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys' fees. The Court will spare recitation of the case law applicable to Plaintiff's eligibility for the award and move directly to determining what the reasonable fees are.

         The Court must follow a multi-step process to determine a reasonable amount of attorneys' fees. The Court begins by applying the so-called “lodestar formula” to determine a baseline for reasonable fees through the mechanics described below. The Court then evaluates that lodestar product for overall reasonableness in light of the results obtained, all pursuant to Hensley v. Eckerhart, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 1939 (1983).

         A. Lodestar Calculation

         “The most useful starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley, 103 S.Ct. at 1939; see also McCown v. City of Fontana, 565 F.3d 1097, 1102 (9th Cir. 2009). Defendant does not challenge the hourly rates charged for any of the attorneys involved in the representation of Plaintiff, and the Court finds in any event that such rates are appropriate. Defendant does challenge the reasonableness of the hours expended in the representation overall and regarding several specific tasks.

         The Court includes in what the Supreme Court in Hensley called the “initial fee calculation” only those hours that were “reasonably expended.” 103 S.Ct. at 1139. “In determining the appropriate number of hours to be included in a lodestar calculation, the district court should exclude hours ‘that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.'” McCown v. City of Fontana, 565 F.3d 1097, 1102 (9th Cir. 2009)(citing Hensley); Jankey v. Poop Deck, 537 F.3d 1122, 1132 (9th Cir. 2008)(same).

         Determining the number of hours that were reasonable may be done in several ways, including via task-based analysis or an across-the-board formula. “The court is not required to set forth an hour-by-hour analysis of the fee request.” Schwartz v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 73 F.3d 895, 906 (9th Cir. 1995)(internal citations and quotations omitted). This is particularly true when the court is faced with a massive fee application.[2]“A request for attorney's fees should not result in a second major litigation.” Hensley, 103 S.Ct. at 1941. The Court here addresses some billing issues by specific task and some across the board.

         The Court agrees with Defendant that the fees Plaintiff seeks for the iterations of attorney fee petitions and supporting briefing bear particularized scrutiny. While “fees on fees” are allowable as part of a prevailing party's award, the time expended to craft and support the petition and briefs must itself be reasonable, and here it was not. Plaintiff's counsel spent over 425 hours-the equivalent of ten and a half standard work weeks-on the original fee petition, and another approximately twenty hours on its addendum. All of this time resulted in requested attorney/paraprofessional fees of approximately $183, 000. In comparison to the scope of the matter and what it took Plaintiff's counsel to litigate it in its entirety, this is grossly excessive. The Court will allow one standard week of attorney time, at Mr. Katz's agreed rate in this case of $510.00 per hour, and 20 hours of paraprofessional time ...

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