Too Vague? No Fees and Costs Paid

 Posted by at 10:07 am  Court Decisions, Interesting Fee Cases, Overbilling  Comments Off on Too Vague? No Fees and Costs Paid
Jul 182016
 

In December 2015, Venture Corporation v. Barrett, 2015 WL 8588239, the plaintiff won reasonable fees and costs. However the court refused to award Venture fees or costs temporarily because their entries were too vague. Venture Corporation had summarized the daily and total hours billed but did not supply any further detail. The attorneys for Venture Corporations claimed they were purposefully vague, claiming Attorney-Client and Work Product privilege especially since the defendant was likely to appeal.
The Court rejected this argument, without prejudice to renewal, because the vague entries have “two unfortunate effects.” Firstly, the court concluded that the vague entries limit the courts ability to assess if the fees are reasonable, is requirement of the Court. Secondly, vague entries limit the defendants ability to challenge the fees as “unreasonable, excessive or otherwise flawed.”

That Should be a Paralegal Task!

 Posted by at 9:16 am  Court Decisions, Interesting Fee Cases, Overbilling, Uncategorized  Comments Off on That Should be a Paralegal Task!
Jun 282016
 

It is not uncommon to see law firms attempt to bill ordinarily paralegal tasks at attorney rates. Courts have started cracking down on this unethical practice. One such example of this is Guerrero v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, in which the court held that a significant portion of the firm’s charges billed at the full attorney rate would have been better characterized as paralegal work, and should have been billed as such. No. 12-689V, 2015 WL 7820966 (Fed. Cl. Nov. 16, 2015).

The Special Master had deducted 2.2 attorney hours, totaling $781 from Petitioner’s fee award, and awarded 1.5 paralegal hours, totaling $187.50, for billing entries which he found reflected tasks more properly suited to a paralegal hourly rate than an attorney rate. Id at 159. The Special Master re-characterized the hours spent on email and telephonic communications regarding medical records, the expert’s fees, costs, invoice, litigation expenses, Petitioner’s social security number, drafting an Election to Accept Judgment, and a Statement of Completion, and the court proceeded to affirm his re-characterizations. Id. Had this not been caught, the firm would have easily pocketed nearly $500 to which it was not entitled.

In Shabazz v. City of New York, the court found that a substantial number of entries, twenty-three in total, were improperly billed at attorney rates. No. 1:14-CV-6417-GHW, 2015 WL 7779267 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 2, 2015). These entries included time the attorney, Mr. Harvis, spent conducting internet searches, reviewing ECF notices, updating calendar entries, preparing civil cover sheets and affidavits of service, and requesting medical records, and were billed at the full attorney rate of $400 per hour. Id at 4. Ultimately, the court found that the entries were clerical or more suitable for a paralegal, rather than an attorney, and reduced the rate charged for 3.9 hours of work that Mr. Harvis billed at $400 per hour to the paralegal rate of $75 per hour. Id. This saved the client a significant $1,267.

Clients must be more diligent in reviewing their legal bills. By reviewing them with increased scrutiny, or having a third-party auditing service do so, chances are, they will find ways to keep more money in their pockets.
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Block-Billed Entries Lead to Block Cuts to Invoices

 Posted by at 2:46 pm  Court Decisions, Interesting Fee Cases, Overbilling, Weekly Wrap-Up  Comments Off on Block-Billed Entries Lead to Block Cuts to Invoices
May 312016
 

Law firms who practice block-billing are opening themselves up to the risk of having their billed fees greatly reduced. Block-billing makes it incredibly difficult for courts, and clients, to determine the reasonableness of the attorney time spent on each task, and therefore, courts across the country have routinely decided to make substantial percentage deductions to attorneys’ fees, ranging from 10-25%.

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Billing For Clerical Tasks – A Form of Double Billing?

 Posted by at 10:34 am  Court Decisions, Interesting Fee Cases, Overbilling, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Billing For Clerical Tasks – A Form of Double Billing?
May 182016
 

Courts are often tasked with determining the amount of attorneys’ fees to award the prevailing party in various types of litigation.  In Snell v. North Thurston School District, the Court was tasked with determining the amount of attorneys’ fees to be awarded to the prevailing party in an American with Disabilities Act suit.  2015 WL 8621913 (W.D. Wash. Dec. 14, 2015).  The Plaintiff, Wendy Snell, successfully sued her daughter’s school district for unlawful discrimination by failing to accommodate her daughter’s disabilities.  After determining that the Plaintiff was a prevailing party under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Court considered several issues to determine the proper award of attorneys’ fees.  These issues included the determination of a reasonable hourly rate and reasonable hours expended in light of block billing within the Plaintiff’s attorney’s invoices, the Plaintiff’s degree of success, and most notably, clerical and duplicative work billed by a paralegal.

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You’ve Gotta “Fight for Your Right” to Attorneys’ Fees but Block Billing, Vagueness, and Duplicate Work Can “Sabotage” those Efforts

 Posted by at 10:28 am  Overbilling  Comments Off on You’ve Gotta “Fight for Your Right” to Attorneys’ Fees but Block Billing, Vagueness, and Duplicate Work Can “Sabotage” those Efforts
May 032016
 

After almost four years subsequent to the initial filing of this copyright infringement action, the court addressed defendants’ motion for attorneys’ fees and costs. TufAmerica, Inc. v. Diamond 2006 WL 1029553 (S.D.N.Y. March 9, 2016).  The court had previously granted defendants’ motion to dismiss for four claims and granted their motion for summary judgment for the remaining claims.   Although the defendants (consisting of the Beastie Boys, Universal-Polygram International Publishing, and Capitol Records) prevailed in this high-profile sampling case, the court acknowledged that this does not necessarily mean that they would be entitled to attorneys’ fees under Section 505 of the Copyright Act.  The main issue of the action revolved around the plaintiff’s standing to enforce the copyright in question.  Because it was found that one co-owner of the copyright was not a signatory to a contract seeming to convey an exclusive license to the plaintiff, it was determined that the plaintiff was not an exclusive license holder and, therefore, could not sue.  The substantive issue of whether there was actual infringement was never even reached. Continue reading »

The Reasonableness of Block Billing

 Posted by at 10:28 am  Court Decisions, Interesting Fee Cases, Overbilling, Uncategorized, Weekly Wrap-Up  Comments Off on The Reasonableness of Block Billing
Apr 042016
 

Block billing is a prevalent problem throughout the legal profession. Although a recent decision by the 9th Circuit found an attorney’s block billed entries to be adequate, the court still based its decision on the reasonableness of time billed for the given task.

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Fees Reduced for Non-payable Tasks

 Posted by at 12:08 pm  Court Decisions, Interesting Fee Cases, Overbilling, Uncategorized, Weekly Wrap-Up  Comments Off on Fees Reduced for Non-payable Tasks
Apr 012016
 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed several objections to Plaintiff’s motion for attorney’s fees including complaints of block billing and vague entries in Pigford v. Vilsack, 2015 WL 7432322 (D.D.C. Nov. 23, 2015). Ms. Sanders acted as one of plaintiff’s class counsel and was tasked with assisting in the wind-down stipulation and order from September to December, 2014.

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It’s All in the Details!

 Posted by at 12:15 pm  Court Decisions, Interesting Fee Cases, Overbilling, Uncategorized, Weekly Wrap-Up  Comments Off on It’s All in the Details!
Mar 252016
 

In Restivo v. Nassau County, there are four principal issues that the defendants brought forth to dispute the payment of attorneys’ fees (2015 WL 7734100 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 30, 2015)). First, they argued that the plaintiff’s attorneys’ staffing was unreasonable. The Court stated that the defendants did not produce any persuasive evidence showing any particular phase of the case was overstaffed; thus indicating if the defendants had provided some evidence of overstaffing, the court might have found in their favor.

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Copying Costs – How much is too much?

 Posted by at 11:46 am  Uncategorized  Comments Off on Copying Costs – How much is too much?
Mar 182016
 

In a recent U.S. District Court case, it was determined that copying costs must be reasonably related to the litigation, and such costs for copies must not be excessive.  In Mars Area Sch. Dist. v. C. L., No. 2:14-CV-1728, 2015 WL 8207463, at *8 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 7, 2015), the Court ruled in favor of the School District on the basis that the opposing party did not provide an explanation of why so many copies were necessary.  The Appellee in this case sought reimbursement for 4,445 copies at a rate of $0.20 per page.  The argument was that the copies were exhibits needed for hearings.  However, only 70 pages of exhibits were submitted for the hearing.  No further explanation of why the remaining copies were needed was provided.  Therefore, the Court concluded ‘[w]ithout any cogent explanation having been provided . . . the number of copies is excessive,” and reduced the quantity for reimbursement to 1,000 copies.

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Attorney cannot refuse to provide a detailed description in motion for attorney’s fees on the ground that the information is protected by attorney-client privilege

 Posted by at 9:33 am  Court Decisions, Interesting Fee Cases, Overbilling, Weekly Wrap-Up  Comments Off on Attorney cannot refuse to provide a detailed description in motion for attorney’s fees on the ground that the information is protected by attorney-client privilege
Mar 072016
 

In a recent case before the Unites States District Court, Northern District of California, the court denied an attorney’s fees motion for failing to include a detailed description of the work performed, even though it acknowledged that the attorney has “legitimate concerns” over disclosing privileged information.  See Venture Corporation v. Barrett, 2015 WL 8588239 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 10, 2015).

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