United States District Court, D. Hawaii
HAWAII ANNUITY TRUST FUND FOR OPERATING ENGINEERS, BY ITS TRUSTEES, ET AL.; Plaintiff,
KAUAI VETERANS EXPRESS COMPANY, LTD., A HAWAII CORPORATION; Defendant.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT IN PART AND DENY
IN PART PLAINTIFFS TRUSTEES OF THE HAWAII ANNUITY TRUST FUND
FOR OPERATING ENGINEERS' MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES
AND NON-TAXABLE COSTS
the Court is Plaintiffs Trustees of the Hawaii Annuity Trust
Fund for Operating Engineers' (“Plaintiffs”)
Motion for Attorney's Fees and Non-Taxable Costs
(“Motion”) (ECF No. 108). The Court finds this
matter suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to
Rule 7.2(d) of the Local Rules of Practice of the United
States District Court for the District of Hawaii
request $122, 201.52 in attorneys' fees for 528.90 hours
of work, inclusive of G.E.T. Plaintiffs also request
non-taxable costs in the amount of $4, 877.04. The total
amount of attorneys' fees and costs sought in
Plaintiffs' Motion is $127, 078.56.
reviewing the parties' submissions, records in this case,
and relevant law, the Court FINDS AND RECOMMENDS that the
Motion be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The Court
RECOMMENDS that the district judge find that $225.00 an hour
for attorneys' fees and $85.00 an hour for
paralegals' fees are reasonable. The Court FINDS that
Plaintiffs' requested fees should be reduced by: (1) 20%
for block billed entries; (2) 4.2 hours for duplicative
entries; (3) 3.7 hours for calendaring; and (4) 10%
across-the-board reduction for quarter-hour billing. The
Court thus RECOMMENDS that the district judge award
Plaintiffs $103, 603.67 in attorneys' fees, inclusive of
G.E.T., and $4, 877.04 in non-taxable costs for a total of
November 16, 2016, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint for
Specific Performance, Assumpsit and Damages (ECF No. 1). The
Court has federal question subject-matter jurisdiction over
this case as Plaintiffs' action arises from the
Labor-Management Relations Act, 1947, the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act of 1974, and the Multiemployer Pension
Plan Amendments Act of 1980 (ECF No. 1, p.2). Defendant Kauai
Veterans Express Company, Ltd. (“Defendant”)
filed an Answer on December 5, 2016 (ECF No. 7).
April 10, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their Motion to Strike
Answer or, in the Alternative, Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment (“Motion to Strike Answer”) (ECF No.
21). Defendant filed a Counter-Motion for Summary Judgment on
April 24, 2017 (“Counter-Motion”) (ECF No. 24).
On June 29, 2017, the Court issued its Order denying
Defendant's Counter-Motion (ECF No. 32) and Order Denying
Plaintiffs' Motion to Strike Answer (ECF No. 33).
August 8, 2017, Defendant filed its Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 39), but later withdrew the motion
(ECF No. 52). On August 29, 2017, Defendant filed an Amended
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 48). On November
16, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Strike Defendant's
Reply Brief (ECF No. 63). The Court heard the parties'
motions on November 28, 2017 (ECF No. 72). On December 1,
2017, the Court filed its Order Granting Plaintiffs'
Renewed Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and Denying
Defendant's Motions for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No.
October 10, 2018, Plaintiffs filed their Motions for Summary
Judgment (“MSJ”) (ECF No. 87). On January 7,
2019, the Court held a hearing on Plaintiffs' MSJ (ECF
No. 99). On March 12, 2019, the Court filed its Order
granting Plaintiffs' MSJ (ECF No. 100). The Court ordered
that the parties meet and confer in attempt to reach an
agreement on liquidated damages and interest, unpaid
contributions and interest, audit fees, and reasonable
attorneys' fees and costs. If the parties were unable to
reach an agreement, Plaintiffs were required to file a
declaration by April 8, 2019 explaining all interest
calculations and audit fees. The parties did not reach an
agreement. On April 5, 2019, Plaintiffs filed their Motion
for Entry of Final Judgment Against Defendant (ECF No. 101).
On April 8, 2019, the Court ordered Defendant to show cause
why it should not be sanctioned for failing to meet and
confer in compliance with the Court's Order granting
Plaintiffs' MSJ (ECF No. 102). On April 17, 2019, the
Court filed its Order (1) Vacating Order to Show Cause and
(2) Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for entry of Final
Judgment (ECF No. 105).
April 17, 2019, Judgment was filed (ECF No. 106). On April
18, 2019, an Amended Judgment was filed (ECF No. 107).
2, 2019, Plaintiffs filed their Motion. Defendant opposed
Plaintiffs' Motion on June 21, 2019. Defendant objects to
the attorneys' fees based on the following allegations:
(1) Plaintiffs have block billed; (2) Plaintiffs
inappropriately seek fees for conferring with one another;
(3) Plaintiffs request for calendaring should be denied; and
(4) Plaintiffs' redacted billing entries lack sufficient
proposes that the Court permit Plaintiffs to (1) revise their
attorneys' fees by breaking down block billed entries and
(2) submit a declaration describing the redacted billing.
Defendant further proposes that the Court deny 67.40 hours or
$15, 140.00 billed for attorneys and paralegals conferring
with each other; and deny 3.7 hours or $493.75 for
Defendant does not dispute that the attorneys' fees and
costs requested are mandatory under Employee Retirement
Income and Security Act (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C.
§ 1132(g)(2). Defendant does not dispute Plaintiffs'
requested hourly rates of $225.00 per hour for attorneys and
$125.00 per hour for paralegals. Defendant also do not oppose
Plaintiffs' request for costs.
16, 2019, Plaintiffs filed their Statement of Consultation to
the Motion. (ECF No. 112). On July 5, 2019, Plaintiffs filed
their Reply Memorandum to their Motion for Attorney's
[sic] Fees and Non-Taxable Costs (“Reply”) (ECF
No. 125). Plaintiffs argue that block billing may be
acceptable, and the attorneys' descriptions adequately
describe the work performed. In support of their argument,
Plaintiffs cite to California and Oregon law. However,
Plaintiffs request for leave to submit revised attorneys'
fees if the Court is inclined to deny the block billed
argue that most of the fees for conferring were not
duplicative. For most of these entries, only one attorney
charged for the meeting even though others attended. However,
Plaintiffs argue that for those entries where multiple
participants billed for conferring, at most 0.25 hour was
spent. Thus, Plaintiffs do not object to a 0.25 reduction for
these days. Plaintiffs argue that the fees for conferring are
not excessive, but if the Court found them excessive,
Plaintiffs would not object to a 10% reduction.
addition, Plaintiffs accede to Defendant's objection
regarding calendaring and agree to reduce their fees by 3.7
hours or $473.75 as clerical and not recoverable. Plaintiffs
also provided the Declaration of Jerry P. S. Chang to
describe the redacted billing entries.
determining an award of reasonable attorneys' fees, the
Court must first address whether Plaintiffs are entitled to
their attorneys' fees. The Court will next determine
whether the hourly rates requested are reasonable and whether
the hours expended were reasonably necessary to achieve the
results obtained. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S.
424, 433 (1983). The Court will then use the Lodestar method
to calculate the reasonable attorneys' fees. Id.
Court must also determine whether Plaintiffs' request for
costs is reasonable. As the prevailing party, Plaintiffs are
entitled to reasonable costs. Defendant does not object to
Plaintiffs' request for costs. Nevertheless, the Court
must examine whether recovery of the costs requested are
Entitlement to Attorneys' Fees
claims arise from ERISA. Under ERISA, Plaintiffs are entitled
to their attorneys' fees if there is a judgment in
Plaintiffs' favor. Defendant does not dispute that
Plaintiffs are entitled to recover attorneys' fees under
ERISA. In relevant part, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2)(D)
(g) Attorney's fees and costs; awards in actions
involving delinquent contributions
(1) In any action under this subchapter (other than an action
described in paragraph (2)) by a participant, beneficiary, or
fiduciary, the court in its discretion may allow a reasonable
attorney's fee and costs of action to either party.
(2) In any action under this subchapter by a fiduciary for or
on behalf of a plan to enforce section 1145 of this title in
which a judgment in favor of theplan is awarded, the ...