United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
MR. MUDBUG, INC.
BLOOMIN BRANDS, INC.
ORDER AND REASONS
TRICHE MILAZZO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff's Appeal of the Magistrate
Judge's Order regarding an award of attorneys' fees
(Doc. 80). For the following reasons, the Motion is DENIED,
and the Magistrate Judge's award of attorneys' fees
Mr. Mudbug, Inc. d/b/a MMI Culinary Services manufactures
food products such as soups, sauces, and dressings. Defendant
Bloomin Brands, Inc. operates multiple national and
international restaurant chains. For a period of
approximately eight years, the parties formed a business
relationship in which Plaintiff produced pre-prepared foods
for Defendant. Plaintiff alleges that it expanded its
manufacturing facilities in 2008 in reliance on this
relationship. Following this expansion, for reasons that are
disputed, Defendant began to award fewer contracts to
Plaintiff. By December of 2014, the business relationship had
been terminated entirely.
the course of discovery, Defendant requested a site
inspection of Plaintiff's food product and facility. At
Plaintiff's request, Defendant formally noticed the
inspection. The evidence shows that Plaintiff initially
objected to the inspection as irrelevant to the case,
although such filing was marked deficient and never remedied.
Plaintiff, however, confirmed by email that no inspection
would be taking place on the noticed date. On January 17,
Defendant filed a Motion to Compel the site inspection. At
some point before the hearing on this motion, Plaintiff
decided that it would allow an inspection as long as it took
place on a weekend.
February 1, 2017, Magistrate Judge Roby granted
Defendant's Motion to Compel and awarded attorneys'
fees, stating that Defendant made a good faith attempt to
obtain the inspection without intervention of the Court and
that Plaintiff's objections were not substantially
justified. She noted that Plaintiff's change in position
regarding allowing the inspection undercut the credibility of
its initial objections. She therefore awarded Defendant
attorneys' fees and directed it to file a motion to fix
the amount of those fees. Defendant did so, filing a Motion
to Fix Attorneys' Fees, which Judge Roby granted on
February 24, 2017, awarding Defendant $3, 686.40 in
now appeals this ruling. Plaintiff filed the instant Motion
for Appeal of Magistrate Judge's Decision on March 9,
2017, contesting Defendant's entitlement to
the consent of the presiding district judge, a magistrate
judge may adjudicate non-dispositive pre-trial
motions. A magistrate judge is afforded broad
discretion in resolving non-dispositive pre-trial
matters. A party aggrieved by the magistrate
judge's ruling may appeal to the district judge within
fourteen days after service of the ruling. The district
judge may reverse only upon a finding that the ruling is
“clearly erroneous or contrary to
law.” In order to meet this high standard, the
district judge must be “left with a definite and firm
conviction that a mistake has been
argues that Defendant should not be entitled to receive
attorneys' fees for its Motion to Compel Site Inspection
because it did not engage in a good faith attempt to discuss
Plaintiff's objections to the proposed inspection prior
to filing such. Plaintiff acknowledges that it objected to
the relevance and proportionality of the inspection and also
expressed concerns about the loss in revenue that would
result in holding the inspection on a weekday during the
facility's operations. Plaintiff contends that Defendant
never sought to address its objections prior to filing its
Motion to Compel.
Defendant argues that Plaintiff's appeal is untimely.
This Court agrees. The Magistrate Judge ruled on February 1
that Defendant was entitled to attorneys' fees. She ruled
on February 24 that Plaintiff must pay Defendant
attorneys' fees in the amount of $3, 686.40.
Plaintiff's appeal solely disputes Defendant's
entitlement to attorneys' fees, and it does not dispute
the quantification thereof. Therefore, it is clear that
Plaintiff intends to appeal the Magistrate Judge's
initial February 1 order. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 72(a) an appeal of a magistrate judge's ruling
must be brought within 14 days of that ruling. Therefore
Plaintiff's appeal, filed on March 9, was untimely.
argues that its appeal is not untimely because an order
awarding attorneys' fees is not a final appealable
judgment until the amount of attorneys' fees is fixed. In
making this argument, however, Plaintiff cites to cases
discussing the appeal of a final judgment of the district
court to the Fifth Circuit. Such is not dispositive here.
Rule 72(a) states that “[a] party may serve and file
objections to the [magistrate judge's] order within 14
days after being ...