United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Ocala Division
R. LAMMENS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff's request for attorney's fees.
(Doc. 52). Previously, the Court granted Plaintiff's
motion to compel and informed Plaintiff if he intended to
seek expenses under Rule 37(a)(5)(A) to file an appropriate
motion. (Doc. 44). Defendant has filed a response in
opposition to the motion for attorney's fees. (Doc. 56).
After review, the Court finds that Plaintiff is due to be
awarded $2, 835 in attorney's fees.
fraud action, Plaintiff sought to compel Defendant's
response to his outstanding discovery requests. (Doc. 30).
After Plaintiff filed his motion, Defendant filed a cross
motion for a protective order. (Doc. 35). Plaintiff seeks 8.1
hours for preparing the motion to compel, his response to the
protective order, and the motion for attorney's fees.
(Doc. 53, Exhibit B). Plaintiff seeks an hourly rate of $425
per hour, totaling $3, 442.50 in attorney's fees. (Doc. 53,
Exhibit B). Defendant has filed a response claiming that
Plaintiff's motion should be denied because
Defendant's opposition to the discovery requests were
substantially justified. (Doc. 56).
motion to compel is granted, “the court must, after
giving an opportunity to be heard, require the party or
deponent whose conduct necessitated the motion, the party or
attorney advising that conduct, or both to pay the
movant's reasonable expenses incurred in making the
motion, including attorney's fees.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
37(a)(5)(A). Such an award is not warranted if the movant did
not make a good faith attempt to resolve the discovery
dispute without court action, the opposing party's
objection or failure to produce the discovery was
substantially justified, or awarding expenses would otherwise
be unjust. Id. Rule 37(a)(5)(A)(i)-(iii).
response, Defendant argues his objections to Plaintiff's
motion to compel and his cross motion for a protective order
were substantially justified. (Doc. 56). Whether
Defendant's objections were “substantially
justified” depends on if “there is a genuine
dispute.” Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552,
565 (1988). Defendant's argument in opposition to the
motion to compel and for the motion for a protective order
largely focused on the merits of the case, which were not
before the Court. The question before the Court was whether
the requested production was relevant to the issue of whether
Defendant misappropriated the funds in the pay-on-death
account or to Defendant's defense that the money was used
for Medicaid planning purposes. Therefore, Defendant's
objections and cross motion for a protective order were not
substantially justified and Plaintiff has a right to
attorney's fees incurred in making his motion to compel.
Plaintiff has a right to attorney's fees incurred in
making his successful motion to compel, the Court has a
corresponding duty to ensure that such an award is
reasonable. In determining a reasonable attorney's fee,
the Court applies the federal lodestar approach, which is
calculated by multiplying the number of hours reasonably
expended on the litigation by the reasonable hourly rate for
the services provided by counsel for the prevailing party.
Loranger v. Stierheim, 10 F.3d 776, 781 (11th Cir.
1994). “[T]he fee applicant bears the burden of
establishing entitlement to an award and documenting the
appropriate hours expended and hourly rates.”
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983). Once
the court has determined the lodestar, it may adjust the
amount upward or downward based upon a number of factors,
including the results obtained. Norman v. Hous. Auth. of
Montgomery, 836 F.2d 1292, 1302 (11th Cir. 1988).
the computation of a fee award is necessarily an exercise of
judgment, because ‘[t]here is no precise rule or
formula for making these determinations.'”
Villano v. City of Boynton Beach, 254 F.3d 1302,
1305 (11th Cir. 2001) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at
436). Additionally, the Court is “an expert on the
question [of attorney's fees] and may consider its own
knowledge and experience concerning reasonable and proper
fees and may form an independent judgment either with or
without the aid of witnesses as to value.” Norman, 836
F.2d at 1303 (quoting Campbell v. Green, 112 F.2d
143, 144 (5th Cir. 1940)).
Reasonable Hours Expended
the Court must determine the number of hours reasonably
expended on the litigation. The attorney fee applicant should
present records detailing the amount of work performed.
“Inadequate documentation may result in a reduction in
the number of hours claimed, as will a claim for hours that
the court finds to be excessive or unnecessary.”
Rowe, 472 So.2d at 1150. Then, the fee opponent
“has the burden of pointing out with specificity which
hours should be deducted.” Rynd v. Nationwide Mut.
Fire Ins. Co., No. 8:09-cv-1556, 2012 WL 939387, at *3
(M.D. Fla. Jan. 25, 2012) (quoting Centex-Rooney Const.
Co., Inc. v. Martin Cty., 725 So.2d 1255, 1259 (Fla. 4th
DCA 1999). Attorneys “must exercise their own billing
judgment to exclude any hours that are excessive, redundant,
or otherwise unnecessary.” Galdames v. N&D Inv.
Corp., 432 Fed.Appx. 801, 806 (11th Cir. 2011). A court
may reduce excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary
hours, or may engage in “an across-the-board cut,
” as long as the court adequately explains its reasons
for doing so. Id.
seeks a total of 8.1 hours, made up of .41 hours of legal
research for his initial motion, 2 hours to draft the motion,
.3 hours to review Defendant's cross motion, 2.89 hours
to research and draft the opposition to Defendant's cross
motion, and 2.50 hours to draft the instant motion for
attorney's fees. (Doc. 53). Although Defendant is
objecting to an award of fees in general, he fails to make
any specific objection as to the number of hours claimed.
(Doc. 56). Therefore, without any specific objection to the
number of hours, the Court finds 8.1 hours a reasonable
number of hours necessary for preparing the original motion
to compel, the response to Defendant's cross motion, and
the instant motion, under the circumstances. Cf. Cake v.
Casual Concepts, Inc., No. 3:16-cv-102, 2017 WL 3917001,
at *9 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 16, 2017) (finding 3.6 hours reasonable
for a motion to compel); Pharis v. Kirkman Mangmt.,
LLC, No. 6:12-cv-1748, 2013 WL 6001088, at *3 (M.D. Fla.
Nov. 12, 2013) (allowing 2.8 hours for a motion to compel).
Reasonableness of Hourly Rates
reasonable hourly rate is the prevailing market rate in the
relevant legal community for similar services by lawyers of
reasonably comparable skills, experience, and
reputation.” Norman, 836 F.2d at 1299. The
applicant bears the burden of producing satisfactory evidence
that the requested rate is in line with the prevailing market
rates. Id. The trial court, itself, is an expert ...