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Patton v. Simon Property Group

August 3, 2007

WILLIAM L. PATTON, JR. FAMILY LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, LLLP, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS
v.
SIMON PROPERTY GROUP, INC., ET AL. DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wm. R. Wilson, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

On June 28, 2007, the Court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiffs and against Defendants on their breach of contract claim, and granted Plaintiffs' request for specific performance. The Court also found that Plaintiffs are entitled to attorneys' fees under Ark. Code Ann. § 16-22-308.

Plaintiffs have filed their motion for attorneys' fees and bill of costs. They seek attorneys' fees in the amount of $612,692.00, out of pocket expenses in the amount of $9,291.88, and costs in the amount of $223,199.14.

Defendants object to Plaintiffs' request, arguing that Plaintiffs' petition should be denied, or in the alternative, the amount sought should be reduced.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Attorneys' Fees

Arkansas law provides that attorneys' fees are recoverable by a prevailing party in a breach of contract action.*fn1 Defendants assert that Plaintiffs are not entitled to recover fees for the time they spent pursuing a claim on which they did not prevail.

Plaintiffs originally brought two claims for relief. In the first claim, Plaintiffs sought specific performance for Defendants' failure to maintain University Mall in good and tenantable repair, order, and condition as required by the lease. In the second claim, Plaintiffs sought damages for loss of rentals based on Defendants' alleged failure to locate and maintain viable retail tenants at University Mall. On May 13, 2005, the second claim was dismissed.*fn2

"[U]nder Arkansas law, the prevailing party is determined by who comes out 'on top' at the end of the case."*fn3 "Prevailing party" is construed in terms of the entire case, not the particular issues or actions in it.*fn4 Plaintiffs need not prevail on every contention raised in the lawsuit in order to receive a fully compensatory fee. They are entitled to attorneys' fees for claims which are related, and involve a common core of operative facts.*fn5

It is clear that Plaintiffs' two claims are related. Both arise from the physical condition of University Mall based on Defendants' breach of the lease agreement. Plaintiffs achieved their primary objective-- relief for Defendants' failure to keep University Mall in good and tenantable condition. Furthermore, Plaintiffs obtained an "excellent result."*fn6 Therefore, a reduction is not appropriate for the time spent on the dismissed claim.

As prevailing parties, Plaintiffs are entitled to reasonable attorneys' fees.*fn7 The following factors are relevant in determining the reasonableness of the fee:

(1) the experience and ability of the attorney; (2) the time and labor required to perform the service properly; (3) the amount in controversy and the result obtained in the case; (4) the novelty and difficulty of the issues involved; (5) the fee customarily charged for similar services in the local area; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) the time limitations imposed upon the client in the circumstances; and (8) the likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the attorney.*fn8 "While the courts should be guided by the foregoing factors, there is no fixed formula in determining the reasonableness of an award of attorney's fees."*fn9 Generally, "[t]he starting point in determining attorney fees is the lodestar, which is calculated by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by the reasonable hourly rates."*fn10

Defendants contend that Plaintiffs should not be paid for time not reasonably expended. They argue that Plaintiffs should not be compensated for time working on a petition for writ of mandamus, reviewing evidence concerning the Summit Mall, monitoring actions of the Midtown Redevelopment Advisory Board, reviewing the county's tax ...


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