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Stuart C. Irby Co. v. Bayview Electric Company, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

February 20, 2014

STUART C. IRBY COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
BAYVIEW ELECTRIC COMPANY, LLC, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

NEAL B. BIGGERS, Jr., District Judge.

Presently before the court is the plaintiff Stuart C. Irby Company's motion for attorneys' fees and costs. Upon due consideration of the motion, response, exhibits, and supporting and opposing authority, the court is ready to rule.

An award of attorneys' fees in a diversity action is a substantive issue, and state law applies. Shelak v. White Motor Co., 636 F.2d 1069, 1072 (5th Cir. 1981). "It is well settled in this State that what constitutes a reasonable attorney's fee rests within the sound discretion of the trial court and any testimony by attorneys with respect to such fee is purely advisory and not binding on the trial court." Mauck v. Columbus Hotel Co., 741 So.2d 259, 269 (Miss. 1999) (quoting Gilchrist Tractor Co. v. Stribling, 192 So.2d 409, 418 (Miss. 1966)).

The determination of reasonable attorneys' fees involves a well-established process. The court first "calculates a lodestar' fee by multiplying the reasonable number of hours expended on the case by the reasonable hourly rates for the participating lawyers." Migis v. Pearle Vision, Inc., 135 F.3d 1041, 1047 (5th Cir. 1998). The plaintiff's lead counsel, Brian Kimball, has submitted an affidavit and detailed time sheets showing that he and his co-counsel and paralegals spent a total of 332 hours on this case through May 15, 2013. Mr. Kimball requests a fee of $250.00 per hour for himself as a partner in his firm and lead counsel on this case for 210.75 hours billed, $170.00 per hour for his co-counsel for 93.75 hours billed, and $110.00 per hour for paralegals for 27.50 hours billed. Based on these figures, the lodestar calculation comes to $71, 650.00 through May 15, 2013. The plaintiff also requests additional fees in the amount of $6, 125.00 for 24.5 hours spent preparing the present motion.

Bayview does not dispute that $250.00 an hour is a reasonable hourly rate for a partner but does assert that the rate is excessive in what it asserts is a simple collection case. Bayview also disputes the number of hours spent on the case as unreasonable and argues for various reductions, including the following:

(1) all paralegal hours (28.7 hours) because the work performed traditionally falls within the realm of a secretary, not a paralegal;
(2) time spent on Irby's initial Motion for Summary Judgment (19.25 hours) and Rebuttal Brief (27.75 hours) because the hours are excessive;
(3) time spent on Irby's Motion to Dismiss Bayview's Counterclaim (23.0 hours) and Rebuttal Brief (22.0 hours) because the hours are excessive;
(4) time spent on Irby's Motion to Amend Complaint to add a claim for punitive damages (13.75 hours) and Rebuttal Brief (9.25 hours) because the motion was without merit and untimely;[1]
(5) time spent renewing Irby's original Motion for Summary Judgment (10.0 hours) because it was unnecessary;
(6) time spent responding to Bayview's Counterclaim (8.25 hours) as excessive;
(7) time spent propounding basic written discovery (10.25 hours) as excessive;
(8) time spent preparing Irby's portion of the Final Pretrial Order (37.75 hours) as excessive; and
(9) time spent on a response to Bayview's Motion for Settlement Conference (7.75 hours), with most of the time spent after the ...

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