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Hansen v. LKA Gold Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

April 30, 2019

W.R. HANSEN, d/b/a Hansen Drilling, Plaintiff,
v.
LKA GOLD INCORPORATED, a Delaware corporation, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES AND PREJUDGEMENT INTEREST

          William J. Martínez United States District Judge

         Plaintiff W.R. Hansen (“Plaintiff”) brought this breach of contract lawsuit against Defendant LKA Gold Incorporated (“Defendant”) in May 2016. (ECF No. 1.) In response, Defendant asserted a breach of contract counterclaim against Plaintiff. (ECF No. 11.) The case was finally resolved after four-day jury trial with the jury returning a verdict in favor of Plaintiff on his breach of contract claim, and finding against Defendant on its breach of contract counterclaim. (ECF No. 79.) Final judgment, including post-judgment interest, was entered in favor of Plaintiff on November 29, 2018. (ECF No. 86.)

         Currently before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Attorneys' Fees (the “Fee Motion”) and Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Judgment for Prejudgment Interest (the “Interest Motion”). (ECF Nos. 89 & 92.) For the reasons explain below, the Court grants the Fee Motion and the Interest Motion.

         I. DISCUSSION

         A. Attorneys' Fees

         The jury found in favor of Plaintiff on his breach of contract claim. The same contract contained a fee-shifting provision which read: “In the event of legal actions, with respect to this contract, the prevailing party shall be entitled to recover all Court Costs and Attorney's Fees.” (ECF No. 89.) Colorado allows a prevailing party to recover attorneys' fees where a contract between the parties provides for such fees. Planning Partners Int'l, LLC v. QED, Inc., 304 P.3d 562, 565 (Colo. 2013). It is undisputed that Plaintiff is the prevailing party in this action.

         Implicit in any award of attorneys' fees is the requirement that any such fees must be reasonable. See Mares v. Credit Bureau of Raton, 801 F.2d 1197, 1201 (10th Cir. 1986) (party requesting attorneys' fees has burden to “prove and establish the reasonableness of each dollar, each hour, above zero”); Robinson v. City of Edmond, 160 F.3d 1275, 1281 (10th Cir. 1998) (prevailing party must make good faith effort to exclude from a fee request any excessive, redundant or otherwise unnecessary hours).

         “The most useful starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley v. Eckhardt, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). This is commonly referred to as the “lodestar method” for calculating fees. Jane L. v. Bangerter, 61 F.3d 1505, 1509 (10th Cir. 1995). The best evidence of reasonable fees is “meticulous time records that ‘reveal . . . all hours for which compensation is requested and how those hours were allotted to specific tasks.'” Id. at 1510 (quoting Ramos v. Lamm, 713 F.2d 546, 553 (10th Cir. 1983)). The prevailing party must make a “good faith effort to exclude from a fee request hours that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434. Where such an effort appears “inadequate, the district court may reduce the award accordingly.” Id. at 433.

         Plaintiff submits invoices detailing how counsel spent approximately 225 hours, mostly at a contractual billing rate of $180. Plaintiff was primarily represented by Andy Richmond, a graduate of the University of Denver Law School admitted to the bar in 2013. (ECF No. 89 at 2.) Andy Richmond billed 205.6 hours at a rate of $180/hour. (Id.) Jim Plumhoff, Plaintiff's prior counsel and a 1999 graduate of the University of Richmond Law School, billed approximately 4.3 hours at an hourly rate of $225.00. (Id. at 2-3.) Mark Richmond and Fred Sprouse, with whom Andy Richmond consulted at various times throughout the case, billed approximately 10 hours collectively at hourly rates of $250 and $275, respectively. (Id. at 2.) Finally, Mary Winston billed 4.6 hours at a paralegal rate of $120 per hour.

         Plaintiff's counsel attests that these rates are reasonable and consistent with other lawyers of comparable experience in the region. (ECF No. 89-1 at 2.) The Court, having found similar rates reasonable in this jurisdiction, agrees. See Fed. Nat. Mortg. Ass'n v. Sechrist, 2012 WL 4511276, at *3 (D. Colo. Oct. 2, 2012). The Court finds that the hourly billing rates are reasonable in this case.

         Plaintiff's counsel spent approximately 225 hours on this case. (ECF No. 89 at 2.) The Court finds that this is a reasonable amount of time given the nature of the issues in the case, and the fact that the case was resolved in a four-day trial.

         Multiplying the hours spent by each individual by the hourly rates, and deducting approximately $2, 800 in discounts, yields total attorneys' fees of $38, 049.

         Defendant does not contest the reasonableness of the number of hours expended by Plaintiff's counsel or the hourly billing rate, and the Court finds the hours and billing rates to be reasonable in this case. Accordingly, the Court finds that Plaintiff has demonstrated that the requested attorneys' fees of $38, 049.00 are reasonable.

         B. ...


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