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Nautilus Neurosciences, Inc. v. Fares

United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 16, 2014

NAUTILUS NEUROSCIENCES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES L. FARES, Defendant.

Jonathan Keith Cooperman, Esq., Kelley Drye & Warren, LLP, New York, NY, for Plaintiff.

Eric M. Eusanio, Esq., Frenkel Lambert Weiss Weisman & Gordon, LLP, New York, NY, Peyton J. Healey, Esq., Powers Taylor, LLP, Dallas, TX, for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Nautilus Neurosciences, Inc. ("Nautilus") brought this action to recover money owed by defendant James L. Fares ("Fares") under a Promissory Note dated January 15, 2010. In an Opinion and Order dated December 11, 2013, I granted Nautilus's motion for summary judgment and held Fares liable for the full amount due under the Promissory Note, namely $75, 000, plus interest and reasonable attorneys' fees. I directed Nautilus to submit a request for reasonable attorneys' fees with supporting documentation within thirty (30) days. On January 10, 2014, Nautilus submitted a motion for attorneys' fees and disbursements in the amount of $121, 748.04. For the following reasons, Nautilus's motion for attorneys' fees is GRANTED.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"[T]he fee applicant bears the burden of establishing entitlement to an award and documenting the appropriate hours expended and hourly rates."[1] "The district court retains discretion to determine... what constitutes a reasonable fee.'"[2] In determining the amount of a fee award, courts must calculate the "lodestar" figure - "the product of a reasonable hourly rate and the reasonable number of hours required by the case" - which represents the "presumptively reasonable fee."[3] "In reducing the lodestar' amount, the court may exclude the excessive and unreasonable hours from its calculation by making an across the board reduction, or percentage cut, in the [number] of hours."[4]

A reasonable rate is generally the "prevailing market rate[] for counsel of similar experience and skill to the fee applicant's counsel."[5] "The reasonable hourly rate for such calculation is determined by the rates prevailing in the community in which the action or proceeding arose for the kind and quality of services furnished."[6] In making this determination, a court may consider "rates awarded in prior cases and the court's own familiarity with the rates prevailing in the district."[7] The burden is on the movant to show "by satisfactory evidence - in addition to the attorney's own affidavits - that the requested hourly rates are the prevailing market rates."[8]

In calculating the reasonable number of hours expended "the court takes account of claimed hours that it views as excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.'"[9] In doing so, the court "may look to its own familiarity with the cage and its experience generally as well as to the evidentiary submissions and arguments of the parties.'"[10] This analysis "turns not on what appears necessary in hindsight, but on whether at the time the work was performed, a reasonable attorney would have engaged in similar time expenditures."[11]

Finally, attorneys' fees awards "include those reasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred by attorneys and ordinarily charged to their clients.'"[12] "Litigants may recover photocopying costs, but... must make clear what documents were copied, how many copies were made, the cost per page charged for copying, and why the copies were necessary.'"[13] Legal research expenses "are compensable on a fee application if the firm regularly bills its clients for them'" and if they are adequately documented.[14]

III. DISCUSSION

Nautilus argues that "the hourly rate and number of hours Nautilus's attorneys spent on this case, primarily responding to Fares's motion to stay, defenses, and counterclaim are reasonable, ... and therefore, Nautilus should be awarded its entire amount of attorneys' fees and disbursements."[15] Fares contests the reasonableness of both the hourly rate and the hours expended, and asks the Court to reduce the requested fee award.

A. Hourly Rates

Nautilus retained attorneys from the New York office of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP. In 2013, the firm's hourly rates for attorneys in its New York office ranged from $285 for junior associates to $855 for senior partners.[16] The customary hourly rates of the two attorneys most involved with the case - Jonathan K. Cooperman, the lead litigator, and Jessica Klarfeld, a litigation associate - were $670 and $375, respectively.[17] In this litigation, Kelley Drye also gave Nautilus a ten percent discount.[18] In support of the motion, ...


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