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Employers Insurance Company of Wausau v. Harleysville Insurance Company of New Jersey

November 20, 2008

EMPLOYERS INSURANCE COMPANY OF WAUSAU, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HARLEYSVILLE INSURANCE COMPANY OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

Before the Court is a motion for attorneys' fees filed by plaintiff Employers Insurance Company of Wausau ("Wausau"). Defendant Harleysville Insurance Company of New Jersey ("Harleysville") filed an opposition to Wausau's motion on the grounds that the hours expended and fees charged by Wausau's attorneys were not reasonable and that Wausau is not entitled to pre-judgment interest. For the reasons expressed below, Wausau's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Wausau filed an action against Harleysville seeking a declaration that Harleysville had a duty to defend and indemnify Wausau's insured in an personal injury action that was brought in New Jersey state court.*fn1 Wausau also sought reimbursement of its attorneys' fees and costs associated with defending the state court action as well as bringing this declaratory action. On August 26, 2008, this Court entered an Order granting Wausau's motion for summary judgment and denying Harleysville's motion for summary judgment. The Court determined that Wausau was entitled to be indemnified for the $30,000 it paid as part of the settlement in the underlying action, and was also entitled to be reimbursed for its attorneys' fees and costs associated with defending the state court action, as well as bringing this action. After entry of the Court's Order, Wausau submitted a proposed order for judgment and certification of attorneys's fees and costs associated with the underlying state court action.

Harleysville opposes Wausau's motion for attorneys' fees on the grounds that (1) the amount of time and hourly rate charged were unreasonable; and (2) that Wausau is not entitled to pre-judgment interest.

II. STANDARD

"The party seeking attorneys fees has the burden of establishing the reasonableness of the fees sought and submitting evidence to support the rates and hours claimed." Microsoft Corp. v. United Computer Resources of New Jersey, Inc., 216 F.Supp.2d 383, 387 (D.N.J. 2002) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 461 (1983)). Under Local Civil Rule 54.2, the attorney seeking reimbursement must file an affidavit with the Court containing: (1) the nature of the services rendered, the results obtained, any particular novelty or difficulty involved in the matter; (2) the dates of services; (3) a breakdown of the services rendered, the identity of the person providing the services, the professional experience of that person; (4) the time spent rendering the services; and (5) the normal billing rate for each person providing services. Id. (citing Local Civ. R. 54.2(a)).

The burden then shifts to the party opposing the fee application to contest, "... with sufficient specificity, the reasonableness of the hourly rate or the reasonableness of the hours expended." Id. (citations omitted). "If the party opposing the fee application meets its burden, the Court has wide discretion to adjust the attorneys' fee for inadequate documentation, duplication of effort, unreasonableness of hours expended, or lack of relation to the results obtained." Id. (citations omitted). "The Court may not, however, adjust the fee for reasons not raised by the objecting party." Id.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Hours Expended by Jaffe & Asher, LLP

1. Motion for Summary Judgment

Jaffe & Asher, LLP ("Jaffe & Asher") were counsel to Wausau in the declaratory judgment action. Harleysville argues that the amount of time billed for drafting and filing the motion for summary judgment, and for the renewed motion for summary judgment, was excessive. In particular, they argue that the 39.2 hours billed by Marshall T. Potashner, a partner with Jaffe & Asher, and the 65 hours billed by James L. Fuchs, senior attorney with Jaffe & Asher, for a total of 104.1 hours, was excessive, redundant and otherwise unnecessary.

Harleysville also argues that the hours billed for filing Wausau's renewed motion for summary judgment were excessive. Jaffe & Asher billed a total of 41.5 hours for refiling the motion, which includes Potashner's bill for 38.3 hours. Harleysville also argues that the descriptions for the time such as "worked on memo" are duplicative and lack specificity to determine if the hours expended are reasonable. They also argue that the 7.1 hours billed by Potashner for working on the "Dowlearn Affidavit" was excessive since the affidavit was merely supplementing the affidavit already drafted. By way of comparison, Harleysville states that their retained counsel billed a total of 123.4 hours during the entire course of litigation while Jaffe & Ashher billed 145.6 for two motions, the second of which was a renewed version of the original motion.*fn2

After reviewing the billing, the Court finds that the time Potashner billed for filing the renewed motion for summary judgment was excessive and redundant and, therefore, reduces the total time billed for revising and filing the renewed motion to 10.0 hours. See Krueger Assoc., Inc. v. Am. Dist. Telegraph Co. of Pa., 247 F.3d 61, 69 (3d Cir. 2001) (affirming district court reduction of attorneys' fees by $90,255 for time spent in reviewing indemnification claim, time court considered excessive or redundant and expenses considered to be non-reimbursable overhead); Microsoft Corp., 216 F.Supp.2d at 389 (stating that a reduction for duplication of effort is appropriate ...


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