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Southland M S, Inc. v. American Castings, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

September 24, 2014

SOUTHLAND M S, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN CASTINGS, LLC, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

TIMOTHY L. BROOKS, District Judge.

Now pending before the Court is Plaintiff Southland M s, Inc.'s ("Southland") Motion for Prejudgment Interest, Attorneys' Fees, and Costs and brief in support (Docs. 86 and 87); Defendant American Castings, LLC's ("American Castings") response in opposition (Doc. 88); and Southland's reply (Doc. 92). For the reasons explained herein, Southland's Motion (Doc. 86) is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. The Court grants Southland's request for $155, 439.45 in prejudgment interest and $3, 545.58 in costs, but declines to award Southland's "enhanced" attorney fee request of $585, 496.00. Instead, the Court awards Southland $435, 496.00 in fees, which represents the full lodestar amount.

I. BACKGROUND

Southland brought suit against American Castings for alleged violations of a Manufacturers Representative Agreement ("Agreement"), and American Castings denied these allegations, contending instead that the contract between the parties was properly terminated for cause. The case was tried to a jury over a period of four days commencing on July 21, 2014. On July 24, 2014, the jury found that American Castings had breached the Agreement, causing damage to Southland in the sum of $3, 840, 779.45 (Docs. 72 and 73). This Court entered a Judgment on the jury's verdict on July 24, 2014 (Doc. 74).

Southland now requests an award of prejudgment interest, costs, and attorney fees and supports its request with a number of exhibits, including a calculation of prejudgment interest submitted by a professor of economics (Doc. 86-1); attorney time sheets, billing statements, and affidavits (Docs. 86-2, 86-3, and 86-4) submitted by Southland's counsel; and an affidavit written by a local attorney who confirms that Southland's counsel's hourly rates are reasonable. The Court will address Southland's requests for prejudgment interest, costs, and attorney fees in turn.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Prejudgment Interest

American Castings does not dispute that Southland is entitled to an award of prejudgment interest in the amount of $155, 439.45. The Court has reviewed the affidavit and calculations submitted by Dr. Ralph Scott (Doc. 86-1), Professor of Economics at Hendrix College and president of Economic and Financial Consulting Group, Inc. Dr. Scott's calculations are well supported, and the interest rate of 6%, as per Okla. Stat. tit. 15 ยง 266 was correctly applied. Therefore, the Court finds that $155, 439.45 in prejudgment interest is due and owing to Southland.

B. Costs

American Castings also does not dispute that Southland is entitled to an award of costs in the amount of $3, 545.58. The Clerk of Court has already taxed costs (Doc. 93) in favor of Southland in that amount. The Court accordingly ratifies the Clerk's Notice of Costs Taxed and finds that $3, 545.58 in costs is due and owing to Southland.

C. Attorney Fees

The crux of the dispute over attorney fees is not whether fees should be awarded but the appropriate amount of such fees. Indeed, American Castings "does not contest that Southland is entitled to the recovery of a reasonable attorney's fee; American Castings requests only that Southland not be awarded an amount to which it is not entitled." (Doc. 88, p. 3) (emphasis in original).

Both parties agree that the case of State ex rel. Burk v. City of Oklahoma City, 598 P.2d 659, 660-61 (Okla. 1979), correctly states the law of Oklahoma governing the appropriate determination of a reasonable attorney's fee.[1] According to Burk, there is a two-step process for calculating a fee award. First, a court must determine the "lodestar" amount based on the prevailing hourly rate within the market and number of hours counsel reasonably expended; and second, the court may consider enhancing or reducing this lodestar fee because of the time and labor required to resolve the dispute, the novelty and difficulty of the legal questions presented, the level of skill needed to perform the legal services rendered, whether the fee was fixed or contingent, or the reputation and ability of the attorneys, among other considerations. Id. "The determinations of which party prevailed in the litigation and the reasonableness of the attorney's fees award, however, fall within the discretion of the trial judge and are reviewed under an abuse of discretion." Strickland Tower Maintenance, Inc. v. AT&T Comms., Inc., 128 F.3d 1422, 1428 (10th Cir. 1997).

Here, American Castings does not take issue with the claimed hourly rates submitted by Southland's legal counsel. Rather, American Castings asks the Court to refuse to enhance the lodestar fee amount by $150, 000.00, as Southland's counsel requests. American Castings attempts to argue that Southland's request for an enhancement of its fees should be denied due to counsel's practice of "block-billing." In particular, American Castings protests that "a large portion of the attorneys' fee time records submitted by Southland have been ...


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