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Sanact, Inc. v. U.S. Pipelining LLC

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

September 10, 2018

SANACT, INC. dba ROTO ROOTER, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. PIPELINING LLC, ET AL. Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT PLAINTIFF SANACT, INC. dba ROTO ROOTER'S MOTION FOR AN AWARD OF ATTORNEYS' FEES AND RELATED NON-TAXABLE EXPENSES [1]

          Richard L. Puglisi United States Magistrate Judge

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Sanact, Inc. dba Roto Rooter's Motion for an Award of Attorneys' Fees and Related Non-taxable Expenses, filed on August 9, 2018 (“Motion”). See ECF No. 75. Plaintiff filed a Statement of Consultation on August 21, 2018, stating that Defendant U.S. Pipelining LLC has no objections to the requested fees and costs and would not be opposing the Motion. See ECF No. 82. This matter is suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d).

         After careful consideration of the Motion and the relevant authority, the Court FINDS AND RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff's Motion be GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         On July 26, 2018, the district court issued its Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order, holding that Defendant breached its contract with Plaintiff, Plaintiff was entitled to judgment against Defendant in the amount of $123, 203.16 plus prejudgment interest, and that Plaintiff is the prevailing party entitled to attorneys' fees pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 607-14. ECF No. 73. The present Motion followed.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Reasonable Attorneys' Fees and Costs

         Under Section 607-14, Plaintiff is entitled to its reasonable fees. See Haw. Rev. Stat. § 607-14 (stating that the attorneys' fees awarded shall be “a fee that the court determines to be reasonable”). Hawaii courts calculate the reasonableness of attorneys' fees based on a method that is nearly identical to the traditional “lodestar” calculation set forth in Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). See DFS Grp. L.P. v. Paiea Props., 131 P.3d 500, 505 (Haw. 2006). Under the lodestar method, the court must determine a reasonable fee by multiplying a reasonable hourly rate by the number of hours reasonably expended. See id. 505-06. In addition, the court may consider additional factors including the novelty of the questions involved and charges for similar service in the community. See Chun v. Bd. of Trs. of Emps.' Ret. Sys. of Haw., 106 P.3d 339, 358 (Haw. 2005); Chun v. Bd. of Trs. of Emps.' Ret. Sys. of Haw., 992 P.2d 127, 137 (Haw. 2000). Here, Plaintiff requests the following fees:

ATTORNEY

HOURS

RATE

TOTAL

Deborah K. Wright, Esq.

52.1 3.9

$300 $325

$15,630.00[2]

$1,267.50

Keith Kirschbraun, Esq.

4.7

$300

$1,410.00

Douglas R. Wright, Esq.

0.3

$275

$82.50

Margaret Harris, paralegal

144.7

$130

$18,811.00

Janice Asakura, paralegal

2.9

$120

$348.00[3]

Cheryl Kirschbraun, paralegal

0.5

$130

$65.00

Subtotal

$37,614.00

General Excise Tax of 4.166%

$1,567.00

TOTAL

$39,181.00

See ECF Nos. 75-76.

         1. Reasonable Hourly Rate

         Hawaii courts consider the reasonable hourly rate in a manner similar to the traditional lodestar formulation, and some Hawaii state courts have considered federal law in determining a reasonable hourly rate. See, e.g., Cnty. of Haw. v. C & J Coupe Family Ltd. P'ship, 208 P.3d 713, 720 (Haw. 2009). The Court finds that federal case law regarding the determination of a reasonable hourly rate is instructive in this case. In assessing whether an hourly rate is reasonable, a court “should be guided by the rate prevailing in the community for similar work performed by attorneys of comparable skill, experience, and reputation.” Webb v. Ada Cnty., 285 F.3d 829, 840 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Chalmers v. City of L.A., 796 F.2d 1205, 1210-11 (9th Cir. 1986)); see also Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1405 (9th Cir. 1992) (noting that the rate awarded should reflect “the rates of attorneys practicing in the forum district”). In addition to their own statements, the fee applicant is required to submit additional evidence that the rate charged is reasonable. Jordan v. Multnomah Cnty., 815 F.2d 1258, 1263 (9th Cir. 1987).

         Based on the information provided by counsel, the Court's knowledge of the prevailing rates in the community, and the Court's familiarity with this case, the Court finds that the hourly rates requested by Plaintiff are reasonable. See ECF No. 76. Although the rates requested for the work performed by the paralegals in this matter are slightly above the prevailing rates generally awarded for paralegal work in this community, based on the Court's careful review of the time entries, it appears that the paralegals in this action, especially Ms. Harris, performed significant work that would otherwise have been done by an attorney. See ECF Nos. 76-1 to 76-8. Because of this work, Plaintiff's lead attorney, Ms. Wright, billed a relatively few number of overall hours on this case. Accordingly, based on the specific circumstances of this case, the Court finds that the requested rates, including those for paralegal work, are reasonable.

         2. Hours ...


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