United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Leda Dunn Wettre United States Magistrate Judge
counsel of record Dear Counsel:
undersigned having issued a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) dated June 26, 2019, ECF No. 252, on
defendants' motion for attorneys' fees and costs, and
the parties having filed objections thereto, this matter
comes before the Court on remand from United States District
Judge Susan D. Wigenton to “set forth in further detail
all that was considered in determining” the reasonable
value of fees to be awarded. ECF No. 264. The Court's
reasoning is supplemented below.
Court presumes the parties' familiarity with the lengthy
procedural history of this case and will briefly recount only
the facts relevant to this supplement to its R&R. In
short, during the discovery phase of this action, defendants
moved for spoliation sanctions against plaintiff, an
evidentiary hearing was held, and the undersigned then
recommended defendants be reimbursed by plaintiff for
two specific categories of costs and fees. Those
categories were (1) “the expense of [defendants']
forensic computer expert”; and (2) “for the
[sanctions] motion.” ECF No. 175 at 13. The District
Court, after consideration of objections from both plaintiff
and defendants to that R&R, adopted the recommendation
that defendants be awarded fees in those two categories. On
September 19, 2018, it ordered “Plaintiff to pay
Defendants the expense of the forensic computer expert and
reasonable attorneys' fees for Defendants' Motion for
Sanctions.” ECF No. 183.
did not move to reduce that fee award to a sum certain until
after trial. They filed their fee application in March
2019, and it was fully briefed in April 2019. The
undersigned, noting in an Order of June 14, 2019 (ECF No.
248), that defendants' fee application sought fees and
expenses “for activities beyond those for which fees
and expenses were granted by the Court, rendering the Court
unable to discern what portion of the fees sought relate to
those awarded by the Court, ” ordered defendants'
counsel to submit a certification attaching the invoices for
activities relating to the two fee categories the Court had
awarded - the forensic expert fees and fees related to the
sanctions motion (the latter broken down into the time spent
briefing the motion and preparing and participating in the
evidentiary hearing on the motion).
considering the submissions on the motion, including the
supplemental declaration of defense counsel filed on June 17,
2019 (ECF No. 251), the undersigned issued an R&R
recommending the following as an award of reasonable fees:
1) $17, 793.45 for Computer Forensic Expert, James Cassidy,
2) $25, 140.00 for legal work related to the briefing of the
sanctions motion; and
3) $8, 595.00 for legal work related to preparation for and
participation in the evidentiary hearing, which was part of
the sanctions motion.
252. The parties filed objections thereto and the District
Court remanded this matter to provide further explanation for
the fee award recommended as a result of plaintiff's
spoliation of evidence. ECF No. 265.
R&R recommended to the District Court that defendants be
awarded a total of $51, 528.45. This included an hourly rate
of $150 for defense counsel and their paralegals, which the
undersigned found reasonable. It also included that amount of
time the undersigned found had reasonably been expended on
the two categories of activity for which fees had been
permitted by the District Court. The underlying rationale for
those recommendations is amplified here.
Court has a “great deal of discretion” in
determining the award of fees. Tangible Value, LLC v.
Town Sports Int'l Holdings, Inc., Civ. No. 10-1453,
(MAS) (TJB), 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162065, at *12 (D.N.J.
Nov. 19, 2014) (citing Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892
F.2d 1177, 1183 (3d Cir. 1990)). In assessing a reasonable
fee, the Court first determines the lodestar, which is the
number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by a
reasonable hourly rate. See McKenna v. City of
Philadelphia, 582 F.3d 447, 455 (3d Cir. 2009). The
reasonable hourly rate is based on the “prevailing
market rates in the relevant community.” Maldonado
v. Houstoun, 256 F.3d 181, 184 (3d Cir. 2001). In
assessing the reasonableness of the hours claimed, the Court
must “review the time charged, decide whether the hours
set out were reasonably expended for each of the particular
purposes described and then exclude those that are
‘excessive, redundant, or otherwise
unnecessary.'” Pub. Interest Research Grp. of
N.J. v. Windall, 51 F.3d 1179, 1188 (3d Cir. 1995)
(quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. at 424, 433
(1983)). Once the party seeking fees satisfies its burden of
showing the reasonableness of its rates and the hours
claimed, the opposing party must ...