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Carline Fisheries Inc. v. Vector Disease Control

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

July 31, 2019


          DRELL JUDGE



         Before the Court is the Motion for Attorney's Fee and Expenses filed on behalf of Gilbert Dozier (Rec. Doc. 86) in response to this Court's Order of June 3, 2019. (Rec. Doc. 85). Mr. Guy Patout, proceeding pro se, filed a Response pursuant to this Court's order. (Rec. Doc. 89). Considering the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully explained below, the Motion is granted.

         Factual Background

         Mr. Gilbert Dozier initially filed a Complaint in this Court in October 2016 on behalf of Guy Patout and several other crawfish farmers who alleged their crawfish crop was damaged by the defendant's chemicals. (Rec. Doc. 1). Mr. Dozier and the plaintiffs agreed to representation based on the number of acres each plaintiff owned. Mr. Patout owned 35 acres, which represented 4.36% of the total 802 acres. (Rec. Doc. 86-5, fn. 1[1]). Approximately one year later, Mr. Dozier moved to withdraw as counsel for Mr. Patout. (Rec. Doc. 53). Following a hearing on Mr. Dozier's motion to withdraw, the Court granted the Motion on October 24, 2017. Mr. Dozier was not discharged for cause.[2]

         The case proceeded through litigation, including several depositions, with Mr. Patout proceeding pro se until May 2019 when the parties settled. (Rec. Doc. 84). Subsequently, Mr. Patout expressed to the Court in a telephone voicemail that he was dissatisfied with Mr. Dozier's attempt to collect attorneys' fees from Mr. Patout's portion of the settlement proceeds. The Court issued an Order directing Mr. Dozier to file the appropriate motion with documentation supporting his claim for attorneys' fees and costs. (Rec. Doc. 85).

         Mr. Dozier attached to his motion a copy of his retainer agreement with Mr. Patout, wherein Mr. Patout agreed to pay $175 initially in addition to a contingency fee in the amount of 33 1/3% of the gross amount recovered (before appeal). (Rec. Doc. 86-2). Mr. Dozier further submitted evidence of $9, 000 expert fees incurred during his representation of Mr. Patout, as well as other case expenses totaling $11, 915.00 incurred on behalf of all landowners. (Rec. Doc. 86-4 and 86-5). Of these case expenses, $1, 640.20 were incurred after Mr. Dozier's withdrawal from Mr.Patout's representation. The latter expenses represent those incurred for the defendant's representative and witness depositions. (Rec. Doc. 86-5, item 3(f) - (j)). In addition, the cost of Mr. Patout's deposition totaled $270.00. (Rec. Doc. 86-5, item 4(b)). It is unclear from the record whether Mr. Patout's deposition occurred before or after Mr. Dozier's withdrawal.[3]

         Applicable Law

         This is a diversity case removed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1332. Therefore, Louisiana substantive law applies to the issue before the Court. Hyde v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc., 511 F.3d 506, 510 (5th Cir. 2007). The Fifth Circuit set forth the law applicable to Louisiana attorneys' fees disputes as follows:

The Louisiana Supreme Court has instructed courts to consider factors inspired by Rule 1.5(a) of the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct in arriving at reasonable fee awards in quantum meruit. These include:
(1) the ultimate result obtained; (2) the responsibility incurred; (3) the importance of the litigation; (4) amount of money involved; (5) extent and character of the work performed; (6) legal knowledge, attainment, and skill of the attorneys; (7) number of appearances made; (8) intricacies of the facts involved; (9) diligence and skill of counsel; and (10) the court's own knowledge.
Courts applying Louisiana law utilize these factors to determine awards in quantum meruit when attorneys with contingency fee agreements have been discharged. This applies when attorneys are discharged either with or without cause, although courts must reduce the award of an attorney discharged for cause according to the “nature and gravity of the cause which contributed to the dismissal.” Additionally, courts may consider these “Saucier factors” in the quantum meruit analysis when seeking to determine the reasonable value of the service provided by an attorney who operated without a contingency fee agreement.
Corey v. Brocato, 626 Fed.Appx. 480, 482-83 (5th Cir.2015), citing City of Alexandria v. Brown, 740 F.3d 339, 358 (5th Cir.2014); and Saucier v. Hayes Dairy Prod., Inc., 373 So.2d 102, 118 (La. 1978), on reh'g (June 25, 1979), inter alia.

         The evidence presented, which Mr. Patout has not challenged, shows that Mr. Dozier represented Mr. Patout for approximately one year, during which time he retained and worked with an expert, prepared and filed the lawsuit, amended the lawsuit, conducted at least one deposition, and filed an Affidavit pursuant to F.R.C.P. Rule 56(d) in response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Considering Mr. Dozier's efforts, as well as the facts that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment was denied, that Mr. Patout ultimately obtained a favorable settlement, and that Mr. Dozier was not discharged for cause, the Court finds, in applying the Saucier factors, that 20% (voluntarily reduced ...

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