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Ufcw Local 1546 Welfare Fund et al. v. Bbhm Mgmt. Co.

May 5, 2011

UFCW LOCAL 1546 WELFARE FUND ET AL.
v.
BBHM MGMT. CO.



Name of Assigned Judge Harry D. Leinenweber Sitting Judge if Other or Magistrate Judge than Assigned Judge

CASE TITLE

DOCKET ENTRY TEXT

Plaintiff's Petition for Attorney's Fees and Costs [50] is granted in part and denied in part. Defendant is ordered to pay $9,440 in attorney's fees, $9,500 in auditing expenses, $350 in costs, and $43,727.20 in interest to the Medical Center.

O[ For further details see text below.] Docketing to mail notices.

STATEMENT

Plaintiffs move for attorney's fees, costs, and auditing fees pursuant to this Court's bench trial ruling on October 6, 2010.

Plaintiffs Welfare Fund, Pension Fund, and Medical Center sued defendant BBHM under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA") for failing to comply with the reporting and monetary contribution requirements of their collective bargaining agreement. This Court held a bench trial and issued its factual findings and ruling on October 6, 2010. This Court ruled in favor of the Medical Center on its claim in the amount of $46,310, ruled in favor of BBHM on its counterclaim against the Pension Fund in the amount of $10,814, and ruled against BBHM on its second counterclaim. Plaintiff was granted auditing fees of $9,500 and interest, liquidated damages, and attorneys' fees as submitted by Plaintiff in a request for fees. After a mistake was discovered in the judgment amount, it was modified to $44,388. Additionally, Plaintiff initially requested interest and liquidated damages, rather than the higher award of double interest to which it is statutorily entitled. See 29 U.S.C. § 1132 (g)(2)(c). After much back-and-forth involving the judgment amount and the amount of interest due, Plaintiff ultimately submitted a request for $55,153.48 in double interest per the statute. Plaintiff also seeks $20,960 in attorney's fees, $350 in costs, and requests that the auditing fees be adjusted upward to $19,000.

BBHM responded to this petition by arguing that: (1) the fees should be limited to those incurred by the only plaintiff to receive a judgment (the Medical Center); (2) the attorneys' fees should be reduced due to unreasonable time spent on legal research; and (3) the auditing fee should not be altered. BBHM has also challenged the accuracy of the interest calculations.

I. BACKGROUND

II. LEGAL STANDARD

If a judgment is awarded in favor of a plan, ERISA provides that a court shall award the plan (1) unpaid contributions; (2) interest on the unpaid contributions; (3) the greater of interest on the unpaid contributions or liquidated damages; (4) reasonable attorney's fees and costs of the action; and (5) such other legal or equitable relief as the court deems appropriate. Moriarty v. Svec, 429 F.3d 710, 720 (7th Cir. 2005). The starting point to determine a reasonable attorney's fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate. Anderson v. AB Painting and Sandblasting, 578 F.3d 542, 544 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). This "lodestar" figure can then be adjusted based on a variety of factors outlined in Hensley, including: (1) the time and labor required; (2) the difficulty and novelty of the questions; (3) the skill required to perform the legal service properly; (4) the preclusion of employment by the attorney due to the acceptance of the case; (5) the customary fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorneys; (10) the undesirability of the case; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar cases. Id. at 544 n.1. Many of these factors are subsumed within the initial calculation of a reasonable attorney's fee. Id. at 544. In a situation in which the plaintiff achieves only partial success, the plaintiff is not entitled to be reimbursed for attorney's fee allocable to claims on which it has lost. Ustrak v. Fairman, 851 F.2d 983, 988 (7th Cir. 1988).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Attorney's Fees

Plaintiff's petition for attorney's fees shows that it has billed for 70.5 hours of service by attorney Robert B. Greenberg and 85.75 hours by a law clerk, Daniel Kaspar. Greenberg's services were charged at the rate of $200 per hour, and Kaspar's at the rate of $80 per hour. Plaintiff asserts that this hourly rate is consistent with the rates charged to other clients of the firm and that awarded to attorneys with comparable experience practicing in the Northern District of Illinois. Defendant contends that a reduction in the amount of attorney's fees requested is necessary to reflect the fact that only one of the three plaintiffs prevailed and the fact that the Court granted BBHM's counterclaim against the Pension Fund in the amount of $10,814. The two-count complaint sought relief in favor of the UFCW Local 1546 Welfare Fund and ...


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