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Kaisha v. Lotte International America Corp.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 10, 2019

EZAKIGLICO KABUSHIKI KAISHA and EZAKI GLICO USA CORPORATION, Plaintiffs,
v.
LOTTE INTERNATIONAL AMERICA CORP. and LOTTE CONFECTIONERY CO LTD., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          LEDA DUNN WETTRE. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is the application of Ezaki Glico Kabushiki Kaisha and Ezaki Glico USA Corp. ("plaintiffs" or "Glico") for an award of attorneys' fees, costs, and expenses pursuant to Rule 37(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF Nos. 302, 308, 309, 316, 320). Defendants Lotte International America Corp. and Lotte Confectionery Co. Ltd. ("defendants" or "Lotte") filed objections to the amount of attorneys' fees sought. (ECF Nos. 304, 306, 319). Having considered the parties submissions, and for good cause shown, the Court awards plaintiffs $33, 456.84 in attorneys' fees, costs, and expenses.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         The relevant background information is set forth in the Court's February 13, 2019 Opinion and Order denying plaintiffs' application to strike the supplemental report of defendants' damages expert Ambreen Salters but granting plaintiffs' application for an award of attorneys' fees and costs as a sanction for defendants' improper supplementation of the expert report minutes before Ms. Salters' deposition. See Ezaki Glico Kabushiki Kaisha v. Lotte Int'l Am. Corp., Civ. A. No. 15-5477, 2019 WL 581544 (D.NJ. Feb. 13, 2019). Specifically, the Court found that

Ms. Salters' July 12, 2018 supplemental report may stand, and defendants may rely on her updated damages opinions, but defendants must reimburse plaintiffs for: (1) attorneys' fees related to preparing for the Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of Ms. Lee on the topic of operating expenses; (2) attorney expenses and travel costs to and from Los Angeles for Ms. Lee's Rule 30(b)(6) deposition; (3) attorneys' fees related to conducting Ms. Lee's Rule 30(b)(6) deposition; (4) attorneys' fees related to preparing for the July 12, 2018 deposition of Ms. Salters; (5) attorneys' fees related to time spent at the aborted July 12, 2018 deposition of Ms. Salters; and (6) costs related to the July 12, 2018 deposition of Ms. Salters, if any.

Id. at *6. The Court directed plaintiffs to submit a certification calculating the total amount of fees and costs for which they are entitled to be reimbursed pursuant to the Court's Order, along with supporting documentation. Id. at *7. Accordingly, plaintiffs submitted the Certification of Aaron S. Oakley, which sets forth the respective hourly billing rates of plaintiffs' counsel and summarizes the number of hours each attorney devoted to the above-referenced activities. (ECF No. 302). At the Court's direction, plaintiffs supplemented their application with contemporaneous time records substantiating the number of hours each attorney spent on reimbursable activities. (ECF Nos. 314, 316). Plaintiffs request a total of $31, 772.59 for 49.6 hours of work by attorneys Steven M. Levitan, Roy H. Wepner, and Aaron S. Oakley that was obviated by Ms. Salters' supplemental expert report and $2, 110.09 in costs related to the aborted July 12, 2018 deposition of Ms. Salters.

         II. ANALYSIS

         "The starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee is the lodestar, which courts determine by calculating the 'number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.'" McKenna v. City of Philadelphia, 582 F.3d 447, 455 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). The party seeking fees bears the burden of establishing the reasonableness of its fee request. Interfaith Crnty. Org. v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc., 426 F.3d 694, 703 n.5 (3d Cir. 2005). Accordingly, "the fee petitioner must submit evidence supporting the hours worked and rates claimed." Id. (quotations omitted). The party opposing the fee application must then "challenge, by affidavit or brief with sufficient specificity to give fee applicants notice, the reasonableness of the requested fee." Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892 F.2d 1177, 1183 (3d Cir. 1990).

         A. Hours Worked

         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 NJ., Inc. v. Windall, 51 F.3d 1179, 1188 (3d Cir. 1995) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433). "In reviewing whether the number of hours in a fee application are reasonable, the Court must conduct a thorough and searching analysis, and it is necessary that the Court go line, by line, by line through the billing records supporting the fee request." Wachtel v. Health Net, Inc., Civ. Nos. 01-4183, 03-1801, 2007 WL 1791553, at *2 (D.NJ. June 19, 2007) (quotations omitted).

         Plaintiffs' counsel requests reimbursement for a total of 49.6 hours that Aaron S. Oakley, Steven M. Levitan, and Roy H. Wepner worked on the above-referenced compensable activities as follows:

Task

Attorney

Hours

Review Ms. Salters' expert report; prepare outline of questions and exhibits for use at the Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of Joanne Lee; communication among counsel about deposition strategy

A. Oakley

14.9

S. Levitan

1.4

Conduct Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of Joanne Lee

Review Ms. Salters' expert report; analyze financial data and

documents underlying that report; prepare outline of questions and

A. Oakley

3.6

A. Oakley

26.0

exhibits for use at the July 12, 2018 deposition of Ms. Salters; communication among counsel about deposition strategy

S. Levitan

0.2

Attend July 12, 2018 aborted deposition of Ambreen Salters

A. Oakley

2.5

S. Levitan

0.5

R. Wepner

0.5

Total

49.6

         Defendants do not object to any of the time entries submitted or to the reasonableness of the total number of hours plaintiffs' counsel devoted to compensable activities. Nonetheless, the Court has carefully reviewed the Supplemental Declaration of Aaron S. Oakley and the time records attached as its Exhibit A, as well as the Supplemental Declaration of Roy H. Wepner and the time records attached as its Exhibit A. (ECF Nos. 316-1, 316-2). None of the time entries appear to be unnecessary or duplicative. The Court recognizes that the depositions of Ms. Lee and Ms. Salters involved highly technical subject matter and required counsel to digest hundreds of pages of Lotte's operating expense data in order to prepare questions for the witnesses. Consequently, the Court finds that plaintiffs' request to be reimbursed for 49.6 hours of attorney time related to the depositions of Ms. Lee and Ms. Salters is reasonable.

         B. ...


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