Commercial Division Blog

Posted: March 17, 2023 / Written by: Jeffrey M. Eilender, Thomas A. Kissane, Samuel L. Butt, Joshua Wurtzel, Channing J. Turner / Categories Commercial, Contracts, Attorney Fees, Report and Recommendation, Special Referee

Attorneys’ Fees Award Reasonable Based on Work Completed and Result Achieved

On February 14, 2023, Justice Margaret Chan of the New York County Commercial Division issued a decision in Pacific Premier Bank v. HNI, LLC, 2023 N.Y. LEXIS 647, confirming the report and recommendation of Special Referee Jeremy R. Feinberg awarding plaintiff nearly $1 million in attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in the litigation pursuant to a contractual provision. The Court explained:

Plaintiffs motion to confirm is granted and the Kasturi defendants' cross-motion is denied. The Referee properly determined the reasonableness of the attorneys' fees charged in considering, with an amply supported record, the reasonableness of the hourly rates, the hours worked, the staffing, the complexity of the matter, and the relative success on the merits (NYSCEF # 304 at 26-34). Of particular note is that plaintiff's attorneys were able to resist defendants various maneuvers and ultimately secure: (i) initial judgment against the Borrowers, (ii) the approximate $1.4 million in proceeds out of the California action, (iii) the $ 6,000,000 settlement from the dismissed defendants, and (iv) judgment against the Kasturi defendants (see e.g. Sempra Energy Trading Corp. v PG & E Texas VGM, L.P., 284 AD2d 253, 254, 728 N.Y.S.2d 16 [1st Dept 2001] [affirming judgment of special referee of $ 400,000 in attorneys' fees, finding amounts were not excessive in view of the circumstance that the action, resulting in damages $654.

The Court further rejected the argument that “other courts facing different circumstances and deviating from a referee's recommendation or otherwise cutting fees more sharply than the Referee did here,” noting that “recommendations of a special referee are entitled to great weight” and that the referee’s decision was support by an “ample record.” 

Contact the Commercial Division Blog Committee at if you or a client have questions concerning obtaining an attorneys’ fee award pursuant to a contractual provision or confirming the report and recommendation of a special referee or special master.