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LANS v. DELL COMPUTER CORP.

September 30, 2005.

HAKAN LANS, Plaintiff,
v.
DELL COMPUTER CORP. Defendant. UNIBOARD AKTIEBOLAG, Plaintiff, v. ACER AMERICA CORP. et al. Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN PENN, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the Court pursuant to Dell Computer Corporation's Petition For Attorney's Fees And Supporting Memorandum [#s 180, 221]. Dell Computer Corporation is seeking attorneys fees and costs, including pre-judgment and post-judgment interest. As explained more fully below, the Court concludes that Dell should be awarded a specified amount in attorneys fees, costs, and pre-judgment and post-judgment interest, with various deductions.

BACKGROUND

  On September 6, 2001, the Court granted Dell Computer Corporation's ("Dell") Motion for Attorneys Fees against Hakan Lans ("Lans") and Uniboard Aktiebolag ("Uniboard").*fn1 Dell subsequently filed it's fee petition against Uniboard and Lans ("Plaintiffs") on October 12, 2001 and October 15, 2001, respectively. However, on January 14, 2002, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the September 6, 2001 order. The Court denied plaintiffs' motion on June 23, 2005; after which Dell filed a supplemental petition for fees, costs, and pre-judgment and post-judgment interest.

  For fees and expenses incurred before September 27, 2001, Dell requests an award of $782,179 against Lans ("Petition I").*fn2 This award includes $568,052 requested in Dell's first petition, and $214,127 in pre-judgment and post-judgment interest. As against Uniboard ("Petition II"), Dell requests $61,840 that includes $48,508 requested in the original petition, and $13,332 in pre-judgment and post-judgment interest.*fn3 Id.

  For fees and expenses incurred since September 27, 2001 ("Petition III"), Dell requests an award of $182,303 against Lans and Uniboard collectively.*fn4 This calculation includes $159,632 for attorney's fees, $15,771 for expenses, and $6,900 in post-judgment interest. Id. DISCUSSION

  I. Standard for Determining Attorney Fee Awards

  When assessing whether an attorney fee request is reasonable, the court must multiply the number of hours expended on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate. Bolden v. J & R, Inc., 135 F.Supp.2d 177, 179 (D.D.C. 2001), citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 1939 (1983). An attorney's billing rate is presumed reasonable if it is "in line with those prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation." Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Hodel, 273 U.S.App.D.C. 78, 80-81, 857 F.2d 1516, 1518-19 (1988).

  The fee applicant bears the burden of establishing entitlement to an award, and documenting the appropriate hours expended and the hourly rates. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437, 103 S.Ct. at 1941. The documentation must be sufficient in detail and probative value to allow the court to determine, with a high degree of certainty, that such hours were actually and reasonably expended. Role Models America v. Brownlee, 359 U.S.App.D.C. 237, 353 F.3d 962, 970 (2004). "Where the documentation of hours is inadequate, the district court may reduce the award accordingly." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433, 103 S.Ct. at 1939. Hence, counsel for the prevailing party should make a good faith effort to exclude hours that are excessive, redundant, or unnecessary. Id. at 434, 1939.

  II. Petitions I & II

  A. Reasonableness of Hourly Rates

  Plaintiffs claim that the hourly rates in Petitions I and II are unreasonable and not properly supported. See Lans Resp. at 6, Uniboard Resp. at 3. However, Dell produced National Law Journal surveys for the billing years covered in Petitions I and II, which prove that it's attorney billing rates were in line with the market rates of other attorneys.*fn5 See Dell's Reply to Lans Resp., Ex. B-H. Moreover, courts in this circuit recognize National Law Journal surveys as sufficient evidence of the reasonableness of attorney fee rates. See Salazar v. District of Columbia, 123 F.Supp.2d 8, 14 (D.D.C. 2000); Davis v. The Catholic Univ. Of Am., No. 99-1153, 1999 WL 813663, at * 4 (D.D.C. August 31, 1999) . Hence, the Court finds that the attorney fee rates in Petitions I and II are reasonable.

  B. Vague Entries

  Lans claims that some of the time entries in Petition I are so inadequately described or redacted that it is impossible to assess the reasonableness of the fee. See Lans' Resp. at 6. These include entries such as: "review draft brief" and "attention to consultant agreement." Id. Similarly vague entries were included in Petition II; including repetitive entries where three attorneys billed for processing a notice of appearance. See Uniboard's Resp. at 3. "Such generic time entries are inadequate to meet a fee applicant's `heavy obligation to present well-documented claims.'" Role Models, 353 F.3d at 971, quoting Kennecott Corp. v. EPA, 256 ...


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