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Priority One Services, Inc v. W&T Travel Services

January 22, 2012

PRIORITY ONE SERVICES, INC.,
PETITIONER,
v.
W&T TRAVEL SERVICES, LLC,
RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Beryl A. Howell

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pending before the Court is petitioner Priority One Services, Inc.'s ("Priority One") petition for attorney's fees and costs, and respondent W&T Travel Services, LLC's ("W&T") opposition thereto. On August 23, 2011, the Court granted Priority One's request for all costs and attorney's fees associated with the filing of a sur-reply to address a frivolous argument proffered by W&T in its Reply in support of its Motion to Vacate, Modify and Correct the Arbitration Award. Order dated Aug. 23, 2011, ECF No. 12, at 1-2. Pursuant to the Court's August 23, 2011 Order, Priority One submitted a statement detailing the costs and attorney's fees it incurred, requesting an award of $9,369.50. ECF No. 13. W&T filed an opposition to this statement, arguing that Priority One's claim for $9,369.50 is unreasonable and excessive. Rsp't Opp'n Pet'r Claim Att'y's Fees & Costs, ECF No. 14. As explained below, W&T's opposition is without merit and Priority One is awarded attorney's fees and costs in the amount of $9,369.50.

I. BACKGROUND

On November 3, 2010, Priority One initiated the instant lawsuit by filing a petition requesting the Court to confirm an arbitration award entered in its favor. Pet. Confirm Arbitration Award, ECF No. 1. On January 18, 2011, W&T moved to vacate, modify, and correct the arbitration award, arguing that the arbitration panel hearing the dispute exceeded its power, manifestly disregarded the law, and made a material miscalculation when calculating the damages award. Resp't Mot. Vacate, ECF No. 6, at 1-2. After Priority One filed an opposition to W&T's motion to vacate, W&T argued in its reply brief that the Court should grant its motion to vacate as conceded "due to the fact that [Priority One's] Opposition was filed more than 14 days after the date of service of [W&T's] motion in violation of [Local] Rule 7(b)." Resp't Reply, ECF No. 8, at 1. Priority One then sought leave to file a sur-reply, which the Court granted, in order to inform W&T that while Local Civil Rule 7(b) states that a party shall file an opposition "[w]ithin 14 days of the date of service," Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(d) adds three days in addition to the 14-day period listed in LCvR 7(b) if service is made electronically, as it was with W&T's motion. Priority One's opposition was thus timely filed. In its sur-reply, Priority One requested that the Court grant it the costs and fees associated with the filing of the motion for leave to file a sur-reply and the sur-reply itself.

On August 23, 2011, the Court granted in part and denied in part W&T's motion to vacate, correcting only the arbitration panel's calculation of prejudgment interest, and confirmed the arbitration award. The Court additionally awarded Priority One "all costs, including reasonable attorney's fees, associated with the filing of Priority One's Sur-Reply," and directed Priority One to submit "a report detailing all such costs and fees." Order dated Aug. 23, 2011, ECF No. 11, at 1-2.

On August 30, 2011, Priority One filed its petition for attorney's fees and costs, stating that it had incurred fees of $9,369.50 associated with preparing and filing its Sur-Reply, Motion for Leave to File Sur-Reply Brief, and its Statement for Attorney's Fees and Costs. Pet'r Claim Att'ys Fees & Costs, ECF 14. The Court provided W&T one week to file a response, if any, to Priority One's petition. On September 7, 2011, W&T filed its opposition, arguing that Priority One's claimed attorney's fees and costs are unreasonable because Priority One lumped tasks together, provided inadequate detail, and billed for irrelevant charges and duplicative activities. Rspd't Opp'n Pet'r Claim of Att'ys Fees & Costs, ECF 14. In addition, W&T argues that Priority One cannot collect fees associated with the preparation of the statement for attorney's fees and costs because Priority One has not provided an invoice for that portion of the fees.

Both Priority One's petition for attorney's fees and costs and W&T's opposition thereto are pending before the Court. For the following reasons, the Court concludes that Priority One's petition is not unreasonable or excessive. Accordingly, Priority One's request for $9,369.50 is granted.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"A reasonable attorney's fees award is determined by calculating the 'lodestar' amount, which is the number of hours reasonably worked multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate." Elec. Privacy Info. Ctr. v. U.S. Dep't Homeland Sec., No. 09-cv-2084, 2011 WL 4014308, *16 (D.D.C. Sept. 12, 2011) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). "While the [c]court is empowered to exercise its discretion in determining the fee amount, the plaintiff still bears the burden of establishing all elements of the requested fee award, including entitlement to an award, documentation of appropriate hours, and justifications of the reasonableness of billing." Smith v. District of Columbia, No. 02-cv-373, 2005 WL 914773, at *2 (D.D.C. Apr. 18, 2005) (citing Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 896 (1984)); see also Heller v. District of Columbia, No. 03-cv-213, 2011 WL 6826278, at *2 (D.D.C. Dec. 29, 2011).

To demonstrate the reasonableness of the number of hours expended, the fee petitioner must "submit[] invoices that are sufficiently detailed to 'permit the District Court to make an independent determination whether or not the hours claimed are justified.'" Kaseman v. District of Columbia, 329 F. Supp. 2d 20, 26 (D.D.C. 2004) (quoting Nat'l Ass'n of Concerned Veterans v. Sec'y of Def., 675 F.2d 1319, 1327 (D.C. Cir. 1982)). A fee petitioner need not present the exact number of minutes spent on the litigation, or the precise activity to which each hour was devoted. Woodland v. Viacom, Inc., 255 F.R.D. 278, 281 (D.D.C. 2008) (citing Concerned Veterans, 675 F.2d at 1327). The application must, however, allow the Court to make its own evaluation of the hours claimed. See id. at 282 (quoting Concerned Veterans, 675 F.2d at 1327). The hours expended are justified if the work is "useful and of a type ordinarily necessary" to secure the result obtained. Id. at 283.

In determining the reasonableness of the hourly rate, "[a]n attorney's usual billing rate is presumptively the reasonable rate, provided that this rate is 'in line with those prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation.'" Id. at 280-81 (quoting Kattan v. District of Columbia, 995 F.2d 274, 278 (D.C. Cir. 1993) (citation omitted)). Where a case involves "two private litigants[,] the best measure of what the market will allow are the rates actually charged." Yazdani v. Access ATM, 474 F. Supp. 2d 134, 138 (D.D.C. 2007).

III. DISCUSSION

Priority One has submitted an invoice detailing the hours it expended filing its Sur-Reply, Motion for Leave to File Sur-Reply Brief, and its Statement of Attorney's Fees and Costs. W&T does not contest the reasonableness of Priority One's hourly rate, but it disputes the claimed amount as unreasonable and excessive. Specifically, W&T argues that Priority One's invoice lumps tasks together, charges for irrelevant and duplicative tasks, and lacks adequate detail. W&T also contends that this Court should not award ...


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