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.

Trustees of the Chicago Regional Council v. R.C.I. Enterprises

July 20, 2011

TRUSTEES OF THE CHICAGO REGIONAL COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS PENSION FUND, CHICAGO REGIONAL COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS WELFARE FUND, AND CHICAGO REGIONAL COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS APPRENTICE & TRAINEE PROGRAM FUND,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
R.C.I. ENTERPRISES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Feinerman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Trustees of the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters fringe benefit trust funds brought this ERISA action against Defendant R.C.I. Enterprises, Inc., seeking to collect contributions allegedly owed by R.C.I. for hours worked by R.C.I. employees performing bargaining unit work. On May 23, 2011, the court granted Trustees' unopposed motion for summary judgment, awarding $21,538.40 in contributions, audit fees, interest, and liquidated damages, and ruling that Trustees were entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs. Doc. 43. Trustees have filed a petition for fees and costs, which R.C.I. does oppose. Trustees are awarded $16,478.75 of the $18,988.75 they seek.

A district court must award "reasonable attorney's fees" to the prevailing trustee in a delinquent contributions case. 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2)(D); see Anderson v. AB Painting & Sandblasting Inc., 578 F.3d 542, 544 (7th Cir. 2009). As with most fee-shifting statutes, "[t]he 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." Ibid. (internal quotation marks omitted). Adjustments then can be made to this starting point, known as the lodestar, based on the factors set forth in Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). See Anderson, 578 F.3d at 544 & n.1.

With respect to the hourly rate component of the lodestar, Trustees submit persuasive evidence that their attorneys' hourly rates-$180 for the junior lawyer who carried the laboring oar, and $235 and $250 for a senior lawyer-are reasonable for this type of case. See Moriarty v. Svec, 233 F.3d 955, 965 (7th Cir. 2000) (affirming district court finding that $165 per hour was a reasonable rate and noting that "[t]he lawyer's regular rate is strongly presumed to be market rate for his or her services"). R.C.I. does not challenge the reasonableness of the hourly rates, thus forfeiting the point. See Stark v. PPM Am., Inc., 354 F.3d 666, 675 (7th Cir. 2004) ("once the attorney provides evidence of the market rate, the burden shifts to the opposing party to show why a lower rate should be awarded").

While the hourly rates are reasonable, the same cannot be said of the second component of the lodestar, the hours that Trustees' counsel expended on the case. At the outset of this litigation, Trustees relied on an audit concluding that R.C.I.'s delinquent contributions amounted to $348,880.47; they later submitted a revised audit reducing that figure to $108,162.95; and they ultimately submitted a further revised audit showing only $9,396.81 in delinquent contributions. The time that an attorney spends reviewing an audit, discussing the audit with the defendant, and making downward adjustments to delete non-bargaining unit work ordinarily is compensable. Here, however, the first two audits were so wildly inflated that it would be unreasonable to require R.C.I. to reimburse Trustees for their counsel's audit-related work. Accordingly, the following time entries are disallowed:

* 1.25 hours on 10/28/09: "Appearance before Judge Leinenweber for initial status hearing. Conference with opposing counsel regarding issues in the case and how to proceed to narrow discrepancies in the audit."

* 1.25 hours on 11/25/09: "Examine and review audit findings in preparation for meeting with opposing counsel."

* 0.25 hours on 11/30/09: "Telephone audit with opposing counsel to discuss audit findings and set a date to meet and discuss related issues."

* 1.25 hours on 12/9/09: "Confer with opposing counsel regarding meeting to discuss the audit."

* 0.75 hours on 1/26/10: "Telephone conference with opposing counsel to discuss the audit discrepancies in dispute."

* 2.75 hours on 9/20/10: "Examine and review audit and defendant's discovery responses in preparation for the deposition of Jason Lawson. Telephone conference with John Libby regarding the new rules for Flooring Addendum audits. Conference call with opposing counsel to discuss the revision of the audit. Examine and review revised audit. Conference call . regarding the same."

* 0.75 hours on 9/21/10: "Review revised audit. Conference . regarding material handlers and electronic record individuals left in the audit. Conference . regarding the same."

* 0.75 hours on 9/21/10: "Correspondence to . one of the electronic record individuals remaining in the audit, requesting him to contact me to discuss the type of work he performed for RCI."

* 0.5 hours on 9/21/10: "Meeting with Karen M. Rioux to discuss the audit adjustments under the Floor ...


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.