Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Coffman v. Dutch Farms, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

November 9, 2017

FLOYD COFFMAN and JEAN COFFMAN, citizens of the State of Indiana, Plaintiffs,
v.
DUTCH FARMS, INC. and BRIAN GARNER, a citizen of the State of Indiana, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          RUDY LOZANO, Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to Enter Award of Attorney's Fees, filed on March 3, 2017 (DE #21). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED. Plaintiffs are AWARDED their just costs and actual expenses, including attorneys' fees, as a result of the removal in the amount of $26, 560.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 24, 2017, this Court entered an order remanding this case back to the Lake Superior Court of Lake County, Indiana. Additionally, this Court awarded the Plaintiffs their just costs and actual expenses, including attorneys' fees, as a result of the removal. This award was based on a finding that Defendants lacked an objectively reasonable basis for removing this case.

         In the instant motion, Plaintiffs initially sought $16, 380 in fees for 36.4 hours of Attorney Robert D. Brown's time at a rate of $450 per hour. On March 10, 2017, Defendants expressed their intention to contest the reasonableness of the requested fees and sought an extension of time to respond to the request for fees. (DE #22). Both a response and a reply to the motion for extension of time were filed, and the extension was granted over Plaintiffs' objection. (DE ##23, 25, 26).

         On March 15, 2017, Defendants again expressed that they believed Plaintiffs' request for fees was inflated and that they intended to propound written discovery on Plaintiffs to explore the matter. (DE #24). On April 4, 3017, Defendants asked the court to set an expedited deadline for discovery related to the fee petition, or in the alternative, to grant another extension of time. (DE #27). Two days later, the request for discovery was denied by Magistrate Judge John E. Martin. (DE #28). Judge Martin noted that the Defendants failed to cite to any law establishing that they are entitled to discovery or explain what information they might need to challenge the reasonableness of the requested fees. The Court set a deadline of April 17, 2017, for responding to the fee request and further ordered that Plaintiffs' counsel was not required to respond to the discovery requests or attend any deposition concerning the attorney's fees.

         Defendants filed their response on April 17, 2017, arguing that both the hourly rate and the number of hours Attorney Brown allegedly spent as a result of Defendants' removal were excessive. (DE #29). Plaintiffs filed a reply on April 24, 2017. (DE #30). In the reply brief, Plaintiffs seek an additional $10, 180 in attorneys' fees as a result of Defendants actions subsequent to the filing of the motion to enter an award of attorney's fees. This additional request includes another 15.9 hours of Attorney Brown's time at a rate of $450 per hour and 11 hours of Attorney Sarah M. Cafiero's time at a rate of $275 per hour.

         On May 2, 2017, Defendants sought leave to file a surreply in opposition to the fee petition. (DE #31). That motion was granted. (DE ##32 - 33). Plaintiffs responded to the motion for leave to file a surreply the same day the order was granted. (DE #34). Finally, this matter is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

         DISCUSSION

         As the Supreme Court has stated, “[t]he process of removing a case to federal court and then having it remanded back to state court delays resolution of the case, imposes additional costs on both parties, and wastes judicial resources.” Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 546 U.S. 132, 140 (2005). “Absent unusual circumstances, courts may award attorney's fees under § 1447(c) only where the removing party lacked an objectively reasonable basis for seeking removal.” Id. at 141. Under Seventh Circuit law, “if, at the time the defendant filed his notice in federal court, clearly established law demonstrating that he had no basis for removal, then the district court should award a plaintiff his attorneys' fees.” Lott v. Pfizer, Inc., 492 F.3d 789, 793 (7th Cir. 2007). This Court has already determined that attorneys' fees are appropriate in this case.

         The only issue before this Court is whether the fees requested are reasonable. Generally, a reasonable attorney's fee is calculated by multiplying a reasonable hourly rate by the number of hours reasonably expended. See Baker v. Trustworthy Land Title Co., No. 1:14cv01617-RZY-DML, 2015 WL 9487885 (S.D. Ind. Dec. 9, 2015). Under the unique circumstances of this case, the Court finds that both the rate requested and the amount of time expended as a result of Defendants' removal are reasonable.

         Reasonableness of the Hourly Rate

         Plaintiffs have asked that Attorney Brown be reimbursed at a rate of $450 per hour and that Attorney Cafiero be reimbursed at a rate of $275 per hour. In support of the request, Attorney Brown submitted his affidavit indicating that he has practiced since 1986 and is a partner with Kenneth J. Allen Law Group, LLC. He further asserts that $450 is a reasonable hourly rate for his work. And, he asserts that Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry awarded his partner fees at that rate in a 2014 case. The name of the case, Evans v. Dart Trasit Co., 2:12-CV-186, was not contained in the affidavit, but it was provided in the reply brief.

         Plaintiffs' counsel bears the burden of proving the hourly rate he has requested is reasonable. See Pickett v. SheridanHealth Care Center, 664 F.3d 632, 640 (7th Cir. 2011); Small v. Richard Wolf Med. Instruments Corp., 264 F.3d 702, 707 (7th Cir. 2001). In determining a reasonable rate, the Court considers “the rate that lawyers of similar ability and experience in the community normally charge their paying clients for the type of work in question.” McNabola v. Chicago Transit Auth., 10 F.3d 5 501, 519 (7th Cir. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.