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Lewis v. M/V Baltic Panther

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 8, 2014

NATHAN LEWIS
v.
M/V BALTIC PANTHER, et al

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

SALLY SHUSHAN, Magistrate Judge.

Before the undersigned are: (1) the quantum of fees to be awarded to the defendants, Baltic Panther Limited ("Baltic") and Cooper/T. Smith Mooring Co., Inc. ("Cooper/T. Smith) (Rec. docs. 138 and 143) and (2) the motion of the intervenors, R. Joshua Koch, Jr. and the law firm of Koch and Schmidt LLC (collectively "Koch") and Gino J. Rendeiro, David E. Kavanagh and the law firm of Kavanagh & Rendeiro (collectively referred to as "Kavanagh"), for summary judgment on their interventions for attorneys' fees and costs incurred in their representation of the plaintiff, Nathan Lewis ("Lewis"). Koch and Kavanagh request that the fees and costs be paid with preference and priority from the settlement proceeds to be paid by Defendants. Rec. doc. 156.

BACKGROUND

On September 5, 2012, Lewis filed a complaint for damages under the Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act and general maritime law. He was represented by Joshua Koch. Rec. doc. 1. A few weeks later the complaint was supplemented, amended and restated. Rec. doc. 3. On October 22, 2012, a second amended complaint was filed. Rec. doc. 9. At the request of Lewis and with the consent of Defendants, a September 9, 2013 trial setting was continued and reset for January 3, 2014. Rec. docs. 17 and 26.

Lewis failed twice to attend an examination with Defendants' orthopedic surgeon. He also failed to appear for a functional capacity assessment. Rec. doc. 93. On December 2, 2013, Lewis discharged Koch. Rec. doc. 99. A settlement conference set for December 4, 2013, was cancelled. Rec. doc. 100. A status conference to determine counsel was set for January 8, 2014. Rec. doc. 101. Koch was granted leave to intervene. Rec. doc. 105.

Lewis did not appear at the January 8, 2014 conference. Kavanagh enrolled on behalf of Lewis. Rec. doc. 109. The trial was reset for October 27, 2014. The motion to dismiss for failure to appear at the orthopedic examinations was denied. Rec. doc. 113.

On September 15, 2014, the parties participated in private mediation. It resulted in a settlement of all claims for $60, 000.00. Rec. doc. 138 (Memorandum at 2). On September 23, 2014, Lewis, without counsel, came to the undersigned's chambers and reported that he had not settled his case. Id. at 2. Defendants moved to enforce the settlement. Rec. doc. 138.

On October 10, 2014, the joint motion of Baltic and Cooper/T. Smith to enforce the settlement was granted. Lewis' claims against them were dismissed with prejudice. Defendants were awarded reasonable attorneys' fees. The quantum of the fees to be awarded was referred to the undersigned. Rec. doc. 143.

The issue of the quantum of the fees was set for November 5, 2014. Lewis was ordered to submit an opposition by October 28, 2014. Rec. doc. 145. Defendants provided support for their requested attorneys' fees. Rec. docs. 146 and 147.

On October 21, 2014, Lewis discharged Kavanagh. Rec. doc. 148 (Exhibit 1). Kavanagh was granted leave to intervene. Rec. doc. 154.

Lewis did not file an opposition on October 28, 2014. Inasmuch as he had discharged his counsel on October 21, 2014 and was not represented by counsel on October 28, 2014, he was given until November 17, 2014 to submit an opposition on the quantum of fees. Rec. doc. 155.

On November 10, 2014, Lewis' former counsel, Koch and Kavanagh, filed a joint motion for summary judgment for attorneys' fees and costs. Rec. doc. 156. Lewis was ordered to file an opposition to their motion by November 21, 2014. Rec. doc. 159.

On Tuesday, November 18, 2014, Lewis telephoned chambers and requested two additional weeks to comply with his deadlines. He reported that an attorney agreed to represent him, but the attorney was out of town. Lewis' deadlines were extended to December 4, 2014. By that date, he was ordered to file his opposition to: (1) the quantum of fees sought by Defendants; and (2) the motion of Koch and Kavanagh for summary judgment. The order stated that there would be no further extensions of Lewis' deadline for any reason. Rec. doc. 161.

On December 3, 2014, Lewis appeared in chambers and requested additional time. He reported that the attorney who was out of town on November 18, 2014, had declined to represent ...


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