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York v. Jordan

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

January 30, 2015

BENNETT V. YORK, Plaintiff,
v.
BRUCE JORDAN; KATHLEEN JORDAN; DOE DEFENDANTS 1-10., Defendants

For Bennett V. York, Plaintiff: James C. McWhinnie, Mark M. Murakami, Matthew T. Evans, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert, Honolulu, HI.

For Bruce Jordan, Kathleen Jordan, Defendants: Randall K. Schmitt, LEAD ATTORNEY, McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon LLP, Honolulu, HI.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT IN PART AND DENY IN PART PLAINTIFF BENNETT V. YORK'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES [1]

Richard L. Puglisi, United States Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff Bennett V. York's Motion for Attorneys' Fees, filed on December 8, 2014 (" Motion"). ECF No. 66. Defendants filed a Response on December 30, 2014. ECF No. 71. Plaintiff filed his Reply on January 13, 2015. ECF No. 72. The Court found this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to Local Rule 54.3(f) of the Local Rules of Practice for the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii. See ECF No. 67. After careful consideration of the Motion, the supporting memorandum, declaration, and exhibits attached thereto, Defendants' Response, and the record established in this action, the Court FINDS AND RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff's Motion be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

BACKGROUND

Pursuant to the district court's Order Granting Plaintiff's Motions for Summary Judgment on (1) Count 1 of the First Amended Complaint as to Defendant Bruce Jordan and (2) Defendants' Amended Counterclaims and the parties' Stipulation of Dismissal as to Counts II and III of the First Amended Complaint, judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendants on November 25, 2014. ECF No. 60. In granting Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment on his breach of guaranty claim, the district court found that Defendant Bruce Jordan is obligated to pay Plaintiff $798, 260.30 pursuant to a personal reimbursement guaranty. ECF No. 56 at 34. Thereafter, the parties stipulated to dismissal of the remaining two claims against Defendant Kathleen Jordan. ECF No. 58. The Clerk of Court filed an Amended Judgment in favor of Plaintiff on November 25, 2014. See ECF No. 60. The present Motion followed.

ANALYSIS

In diversity cases, the Court must apply state law in determining whether the prevailing party is entitled to attorneys' fees. Kona Enters., Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 883 (9th Cir. 2000). Under Hawaii law, " [o]rdinarily, attorneys' fees cannot be awarded as damages or costs unless so provided by statute, stipulation, or agreement." Stanford Carr Dev. Corp. v. Unity House, Inc., 111 Haw. 286, 141 P.3d 459, 478 (Haw. 2006) (citing Weinberg v. Mauch, 78 Haw. 40, 890 P.2d 277, 290 (Haw. 1995)).

Here, Plaintiff seeks an award of fees under Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 607-14. Section 607-14 provides that attorneys' fees shall be awarded " in all actions in the nature of assumpsit." Haw. Rev. Stat. § 607-14. Section 607-14 also provides that such fees shall " not exceed twenty-five per cent of the judgment." Haw. Rev. Stat. § 607-14. To award attorneys' fees under Section 607-14, the court must determine whether: (A) the action is in the nature of assumpsit; (B) Plaintiff is the prevailing party; (C) the fees requested are reasonable; and (D) the fees do not exceed twenty-five percent of the judgment.

A. Action in the Nature of Assumpsit

Plaintiff asserts that this action is in the nature of assumpsit because it is an action to enforce Defendant's personal guarantee. ECF No. 66-1 at 5-6. Defendants do not dispute that this is an action in the nature of assumpsit. Accordingly, Plaintiff is eligible for an award of attorneys' fees under Section 607-14.

B. Prevailing Party Status

Plaintiff prevailed on his Motion for Summary Judgment and Judgment was entered in his favor. See ECF Nos. 56, 60. Because any dismissal that results in judgment is sufficient to support an award for attorneys' fees under Hawaii law, see Kona Enters., 229 F.3d at 883, the Court concludes that Plaintiff is the " prevailing party" for purposes of Section 607-14. See also Blair v. Ing, 96 Haw. 327, 31 P.3d 184, 189 (Haw. 2001) (" a defendant who succeeds in ...


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