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Cooper/T. Smith Stevedoring Company, Inc. v. Agribusiness United North America Corp

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

June 11, 2018

COOPER/T. SMITH STEVEDORING COMPANY, INC., ET AL
v.
AGRIBUSINESS UNITED NORTH AMERICA CORPORATION

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON CHIEF JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Affidavit for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (Doc. 21), in which Plaintiffs request $13, 051.00 in attorney's fees and $1, 670.00 in costs. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiffs' attorney's fees request and denies Plaintiffs' request for costs.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court entered a Default Judgment against Defendants Agribusiness United North American Corporation and M/V AEC Diligence and in favor of Plaintiffs Cooper Consolidated, LLC and Cooper/T. Smith Stevedoring Company for $105, 900.68 on March 29, 2018. (Doc. 17). The Court also awarded attorney's fees and costs, but ordered Plaintiffs to file an Affidavit of Attorney's Fees and Costs within thirty days to allow the Court to calculate a specific amount of attorney's fees and costs. (Doc. 17 at p. 4). Plaintiffs timely filed an Affidavit of Attorney's Fees and Costs, requesting $14, 772.96. (Doc. 19 at p. 2). The Court awarded $400.00 in costs, but denied Plaintiffs' request for attorney's fees without prejudice because Plaintiffs failed to adequately detail the specific fees requested. (Doc. 20 at p. 4).

         II. DISCUSSION

         In its Default Judgment Order, the Court found that Plaintiffs asserted a claim under La. R.S. § 9:2781 for amounts due on an open account under Louisiana's open accounts law because Plaintiffs alleged that they sent Defendants a written demand for an amount owed for shipping-related services and Defendant failed to pay the amount within 30 days. (Doc. 17 at p. 3). Under Louisiana's open accounts law, a defendant is liable for "reasonable attorney fees." La. R.S. § 9;278l(A).

         Plaintiffs request $13, 051.00 in attorney's fees, reflecting the following hours:

Timekeeper

Rate

Hours

Total

Frederick W. Swaim III

$205.00

28.00

$5, 740, 00[1]

Jason Waguespack

$225.00

1.7

$382.50

Andrew Respess

$165.00

39.2

$6, 468.00

David Loria "

$165.00 "

2.3 "

$379.50

Lori Martin

$90

0.9

$81.00 "

72.1

$13, 051.00

(Doc. 21 at p. 2).

         The calculation of attorney's fees involves a well-established process." Migis v. Pearle Vision, Inc., 135 F.3d 1041, 1047 (5th Cir. 1998). "First, the court calculates a 'lodestar' fee by multiplying the reasonable number of hours expended on the case by the reasonable hourly rates for the participating lawyers. The court then considers whether the lodestar figure should be adjusted upward or downward depending on the circumstances of the case." Id. The party applying for attorney's fees bears the burden of producing satisfactory evidence that the requested rate is aligned with prevailing market rates. Louisiana Power & Light Co. v. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319, 324 (5th Cir. 1995). The Fifth Circuit has emphasized that "the relevant market for purposes of determining the prevailing rate to be paid in a fee award is the community in which the district court sits." Tollett v. City of Kemah, 285 F.3d 357, 368 (5th Cir. 2002) (quotation marks omitted).

         A. Hourly Rates

         Frederick W. Swaim III has practiced law in Louisiana for over fourteen years, and he has extensive experience in litigating maritime personal injury, cargo damage and contract disputes. (Doc. 21 at ¶ 6). He is a director of Galloway, Johnson, Tompkins, Burr & Smith in New Orleans, Louisiana. Id. at ¶ 1. Plaintiffs request an hourly rate of $205.00 for Mr. Swaim, which is a reasonable rate for someone with his experience. (Doc. 21 at ¶ 6). See Alonso v. Westcoast Corp., No. 13-00563, 2017 WL 4176973, at *7 (M.D. La. Sept. 21, 2017) (finding $300.00 an hour is a reasonable rate for an attorney with thirteen years of experience).

         Jason Waguespack has been practicing law for over twenty years in Louisiana, and he has extensive experience in maritime law. (Doc. 21 at ¶ 7). He is also the Managing Director at Galloway. Id. Plaintiffs request an hourly rate of $225.00 for Mr. Waguespack, which is a reasonable rate for someone with his experience. See Alonso, 2017 WL 4176973, at *7 (M.D. La. Sept. 21, 2017) (finding $300.00 an hour is a reasonable rate for an attorney with thirteen years of experience); Hernandez v. Theriot, No. CV 14-42, 2017 WL 8942567, at *5 (M.D. La. Jan. 19, 2017) (finding $250.00 an hour is a reasonable rate for an attorney with fifteen years of experience).

         David Loria was an associate at Galloway for over ten years, and his practice focused on corporate transactions, insurance defense, and maritime law. (Doc. 21 at ¶ 9). Plaintiffs requests an hourly rate of $165.00 for Mr. Loria, which is a reasonable rate for someone with his experience. See Alonso, 2017 WL 4176973, at *7 ...


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