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Bank of America, N.A. v. World of Smiles

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

September 18, 2017


         SECTION: “G”(1)



         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Bank of America, N.A.’s (“Bank of America”) Motion for Attorneys’ Fees Award pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d) and Local Rule 54.2.[1]This motion was filed on March 3, 2017 and set for submission on March 29, 2017.[2] Pursuant to Local Rule 7.5, any opposition to a motion must be filed eight days before the noticed submission date. Defendants have filed no opposition, timely or otherwise, and therefore the Court deems this motion unopposed. District courts may grant an unopposed motion, as long as the motion has merit.[3] Having considered the motion, the memorandum in support, the record, and applicable law, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny the motion and grant Plaintiff leave to supplement its motion within 14 days to provide evidence as to the reasonableness of the hourly rate it has requested for attorney’s fees.

         I. Background

         On February 27, 2017, Plaintiff obtained a final judgment (the “February Judgment”) against Defendant A World of Smiles, LLC, to recover amounts owed to it under a Project Finance Term Loan Agreement (the “Loan Agreement”).[4] Applying Louisiana substantive law pursuant to the terms of the Loan Agreement, the Court awarded the Plaintiff $709,066.88 plus interest from June 1, 2016, at a rate of 8.25%.[5] Moreover, the Loan Agreement included a provision requiring the borrower to pay costs and expenses related to its enforcement. Accordingly, the Court awarded attorneys’ fees and costs to the Plaintiff.[6]

         Plaintiff filed this pending motion for attorney’s fees on March 3, 2017.[7] It is unopposed.

         II. Parties’ Arguments

         Plaintiff requests attorney’s fees and costs in the amount of $20,163.70.[8] According to Plaintiff, this amount is based on $19,373.70 in attorneys’ fees and $790.00 in costs.[9] First, Plaintiff asserts that its request for attorneys’ fees “is consistent with the Loan Agreement, which permits the recovery of ‘reasonable fees and costs of attorneys employed by Bank of America for any purpose related to this Agreement or the Indebtedness, including consultation, drafting documents, sending notices or instituting, prosecuting or defending any proceedings,’” and the February Judgment.[10]

         Additionally, Plaintiff argues that it “is entitled to the recovery of attorneys’ fees under Louisiana law.”[11] Citing Louisiana Civil Code Article 2000, Plaintiff avers that parties may contractually authorize liability for attorneys’ fees in a fixed or determinable amount.[12]

         Finally, Plaintiff submits an affidavit of its counsel of record to verify the billing statements and invoices for the amount of attorneys’ fees.[13] Without citing any authority or providing any context for the statements, Plaintiff asserts that this amount of attorneys’ fees and costs requested is per se reasonable, as it is “well less than 25% of the amount of the [February] Judgment.”[14]

         III. Law and Analysis

         A. Standard on a Motion for Attorney’s Fees and Costs

         Rule 54(d)(1)-(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

(1) Costs Other Than Attorney's Fees. Unless a federal statute, these rules, or a court order provides otherwise, costs--other than attorney's fees--should be allowed to the prevailing party. But costs against the United States, its officers, and its agencies may be imposed only to the extent allowed by law. The clerk may tax costs on 14 days' notice. On motion served within the next 7 days, the court may review the clerk's action.
(2) Attorney's Fees.
(A) Claim to Be by Motion. A claim for attorney's fees and related nontaxable expenses must be made by motion unless the substantive law requires those fees to be proved at trial as an element of damages.
(B) Timing and Contents of the Motion. Unless a statute or a court order provides otherwise, the motion must:
(i) be filed no later than 14 days after the entry of judgment;
(ii) specify the judgment and the statute, rule, or other grounds entitling the movant to the award;
(iii) state the amount sought or provide a fair estimate of it; and
(iv) disclose, if the court so orders, the terms of any agreement about fees for the services for which the claim is made.
(C) Proceedings. Subject to Rule 23(h), the court must, on a party's request, give an opportunity for adversary submissions on the motion in accordance with Rule 43(c) or 78. The court may decide issues of liability for fees before receiving submissions on the value of services. The court must find the facts and state its conclusions of law as provided in Rule 52(a).
(D) Special Procedures by Local Rule; Reference to a Master or a Magistrate Judge. By local rule, the court may establish special procedures to resolve fee-related issues without extensive evidentiary hearings. Also, the court may refer issues concerning the value of services to a special master under Rule 53 without regard to the limitations of Rule 53(a)(1), and may refer a motion for attorney's fees to a magistrate judge under Rule 72(b) as if it were a dispositive pretrial matter.
(E) Exceptions. Subparagraphs (A)-(D) do not apply to claims for fees and expenses as sanctions for violating these rules or as sanctions under 28 U.S.C. § 1927.[15]

         Moreover, Local Rule 54.2 states, “In all cases in which a party seeks attorneys’ fees, the party must submit to the court a verified, contemporaneous report reflecting, the date, ...

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