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Commercial Division Blog

Current Developments in the Commercial Divisions of the
New York State Courts by Schlam Stone & Dolan LLP
Posted: November 26, 2017

Court Refuses to Award Fees for Almost 100 hours of Work on Motion to Compel

On November 3, 2017, Justice Bransten of the New York County Commercial Division issued a decision in Jfurti, LLC v. Verschleiser, 2017 NY Slip Op. 32357(U), refusing to grant an attorneys’ fees for 100 hours of work on a motion to compel, explaining:

It is within the court’s discretion to determine the reasonableness of an attorney’s stated fee. Among the factors the court should consider when determining the reasonableness of fees are: time and labor required, the difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill required to handle the problems presented; the lawyer’s experience, ability and reputation; the amount involved and benefit resulting to the client from the services; the customary fee charged by the Bar for similar services; the contingency or certainty of compensation; the results obtained; and the responsibility involved. In addressing these factors, this Court finds that the Plaintiffs have adequately justified the hourly rates for the partner and associate, yet there remains a vast, unexplained, disparity between the time and labor exerted with the nature of the services and relative difficulty, or lack thereof, of the underlying motion. This court, however, accepts the statements made in the Jakoby Affirmation as well as the supporting timecard that there has been no double dipping of fees pertaining to this motion.

Plaintiffs affirmation spends a significant number of pages, eight out of ten, comparing the amount of work done on this motion for sanctions with the alleged amount of work Defendants performed on the 2014 motion to strike. This court, however, declines to compare the present application for a fee award with the previous award. Plaintiffs are unable to sufficiently demonstrate reasoning for the alleged amount of time needed to draft motion sequence 10, the motion to compel. Plaintiffs have failed to give this Court an adequate breakdown of time worked on the motion, including any relevant call logs for conferences, time spent on legal research, and an express breakdown of time spent logged drafting of the document. They have also not stated that this particular discovery motion was unusually difficult or complex which required any particularly special skills to justify the nearly 100 hours of billing time. As the Court stated on the May 10, 2017 record, the underlying discovery related motion would justify twenty to twenty-five hours’ worth of work, at most. Plaintiffs have failed to provide any arguments or proofs that persuade this court to grant sanctions for more than the twenty hours work.

(Internal quotations and citations omitted).

Litigating for fees can be hard–both because of the high burden you sometimes must meet to be entitled to fees and because it is important to avoid the pitfall of getting an award of fees that is less than what it cost to move for fees. Contact Schlam Stone & Dolan partner John Lundin at jlundin@schlamstone.com if you are litigating an attorney fee award.

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