The Edge of Reason

 Posted by at 2:59 pm  Court Decisions, Interesting Fee Cases, Overbilling  Comments Off on The Edge of Reason
Mar 212017
 

Reasonableness of attorneys’ fees and the number of hours billed are at issue in LHF Productions, Inc. v. DOES 1-19, Case No. C16-1175RSM, 2017 WL 615197 (W.D. Wash. Feb. 15, 2017). . Here, the Court reduced an attorney’s rate because it did not find that the legal work required extensive skill or experience. The attorney up-charged his fees in this case after disposing of identical cases at a lower rate. The Court even alleged that the attorney, who had litigated many identical complaints to this case, had ‘recycled pleadings’ used in other cases. To make matters worse, the attorney received little to no opposition from the named Defendants and ended up getting a default judgment when a number of named Defendants did not respond to the amended complaints. The moral of the story for attorneys is when you handle a number of similar cases, which require very little work, be prepared for the Court to look to those similar cases for instruction of fees. If you are using recycled pleadings, they are viewed as no more than form pleadings to the Court and the fees associated will be viewed as requiring basic legal skills.

Since numerous identical complaints were filed by this attorney, the Court balked at the attorney billing for hundreds of hours of legal work preparing identical complaints and motions. In this case, the attorney billed hundreds of hours for his own work and billed for hundreds of hours of work by an associate and legal assistant. The Court found this billing practice to be unreasonable and even “extravagant” to believe that identical complaints and motions for dozens of Defendants took that much time. In its opinion, the Court estimated that preparation of each complaint took no more than an hour to create.

In the end, the Court found that the work performed by the legal assistant amounted to administrative work and would not be compensated. Due to massive overbilling, the Court only deemed it reasonable to compensate the attorney one hour’s worth of work and one hour’s worth of his associate attorney’s work on each complaint filed. Had the upcharge on these cases been slight, the court may not have noticed such a disparity and would have found the fees reasonable.