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Dentino v. Moiharwin Diversified Corp.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

January 12, 2017

THOMAS DENTINO, Plaintiff,
v.
MOIHARWIN DIVERSIFIED CORPORATION doing business as VEGAS VALLEY COLLECTION SERVICES, Defendant.

          ORDER

          CAM FERENBACH, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court are Dentino's motion for attorney's fees (ECF No. 48), the Defendant's response (ECF No. 49), and Dentino's reply (ECF No. 50). For the reasons stated below, Dentino's motion is granted.

         I. Discussion

         1. Reasonable Attorney Fees

         “[A]ny debt collector who fails to comply with any provision of this subchapter with respect to any person is liable to such a person in an amount equal to the sum of - (1) any actual damages sustained by such person as a result of such failure; (2)(A) in the case of any action by an individual, such additional damages as the court may allow, but not exceeding $1, 000.” 15 U.S.C. §1692k. “[I]n the case of any successful action to enforce the foregoing liability, the costs of the action, together with a reasonable attorney's fee as determined by the court.” Id.

         Courts typically apply the two-step “lodestar” method to determine a party's reasonable attorney's fees. Gonzalez v. City of Maywood, 729 F.3d 1196, 1202 (9th Cir. 2013). “Under the lodestar method, the district court multiplies the number of hours the prevailing party reasonably expended on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). “The product of this computation-the ‘lodestar figure'-is a presumptively reasonable fee.” See Id.

         a. Reasonable Number of Hours

         “[A] reasonable number of hours equals the number of hours … which could reasonably have been billed to a private client.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). “The prevailing party has the burden of submitting billing records to establish that the number of hours it has requested are reasonable.” Id. “[T]o determine whether attorneys for the prevailing party could have reasonably billed the hours they claim to their private clients, the district court should begin with the billing records the prevailing party has submitted.” Id.

         “[I]n some cases, the prevailing party may submit billing records which include hours that could not reasonably be billed to a private client.” Id. at 1203. “For example, records may contain entries for hours that are excessive, redundant or otherwise unnecessary.” Id. Courts may exclude such hours using one of two methods. Id. “First, the court may conduct an ‘hour-by-hour analysis of the fee request, ' and exclude those hours for which it would be unreasonable to compensate the prevailing party.” Id. Second, the court may “make across-the-board percentage cuts either in the number of hours claimed or in the final lodestar figure as a practical means of excluding non-compensable hours from a fee application.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         “[W]hen a district court decides that a percentage cut (to either the lodestar or the number of hours) is warranted, it must ‘set forth a concise but clear explanation of its reasons for choosing a given percentage reduction.” Id. “[T]he district court can impose a small reduction, no greater than 10 percent-a ‘haircut'-based on its exercise of discretion and without a more specific explanation.” Moreno v. City of Sacramento, 534 F.3d 1106, 1112 (9th Cir. 2013).

         According to the billing records submitted by Dentino (ECF No. 48-1), attorney Mark Bourassa billed 21.6 hours, attorney Trent Richards billed 76.2 hours, attorney Hillary Ross billed 4.7 hours, and three Bourassa Law Group's (BLG) paralegals billed a total of 27.8 hours. (Id.)

         By in large, the number of hours billed by the BLG was reasonable. The one exception is the time billed by attorney Trent Richards. With regard to certain tasks, the time he billed was unnecessary and excessive. For example, he billed for 3.7 hours to “[p]repare for deposition with client; met with client and witness; attend deposition of Plaintiff.” (Id.) On another occasion, he billed 2.1 hours for “[r]easearch disclosure of fee agreement as applicable to attorney client privilege.” (Id.) On other occasions, attorney Richards billed his time in blocks. For example, on October 19, 2016, he “[r]eviewed and revised responses to requests for production and finalized responses; reviewed and revised joint pretrial memorandum; drafted email to opposing counsel transmitting proposed pretrial memorandum for consideration” for a total of 2.1 hours. (Id.) Since instances of excessive and block billing appear throughout the billing record, this court will exercise its discretion to impose a 10% “haircut” on attorney Richards's total billable hours. Moreno, 534 F.3d at 1112. This reduces attorney Richards's billable hours from 76.2 to 68.58.

         b. Reasonable Hourly Rate

         The ‘prevailing market rates in the relevant legal community' set the reasonable hourly rate for purposes of computing the lodestar amount.” Gonzalez, 729 F.3d at 1205. “Within this geographic community, the district court should ‘take into consideration the experience, skill, and reputation of the attorney or paralegal.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). According to the affidavit in support of Dentino's fee motion, attorneys Bourassa and Ross are partners with BLG and billed $350 per hours for their time. (ECF No. 48-1) Paralegals for BLG billed at $125 per hour. (Id.) The Defendant does not dispute the reasonableness of any of these hourly rate. (ECF No. 49) ...


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