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Maui Jim, Inc. v. Smartbuy Guru Enterprises

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

May 16, 2018

MAUI JIM, INC., an Illinois Corporation, Plaintiff,


          Jeffrey T. Gilbert United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Maui Jim's Fee Petition [128] is allowed in part. Defendants (collectively “SmartBuy”) shall pay Maui Jim $9, 821.00 on or before June 6, 2018. See Statement below for further details.


         On December 18, 2017, the Court granted in part and denied in part SmartBuy's Motion to Clarify and for Entry of Protective Order. [ECF No. 71.] SmartBuy then filed a “Motion for Reconsideration of Supply-Chain Confidentiality Designation in Light of New Facts and for Expedited Discovery into Potential Contemptuous Conduct” [ECF No. 113]. The Court denied SmartBuy's Motion for Reconsideration on March 19, 2018, and ordered SmartBuy to pay Maui Jim's attorneys' fees and costs incurred in filing its Response to SmartBuy's Motion in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a)(5)(B). [ECF No. 126.] Because the parties were unable to agree on the amount of fees, in accordance with the Court's March 19, 2018 order [ECF No. 126], Maui Jim filed a Fee Petition [ECF No. 128] seeking $18, 649.50 in legal fees it incurred in filing its Response, as well as additional fees incurred in filing the Fee Petition and the Reply in Support [ECF No. 133].


         First, SmartBuy says that the Court does not have the authority to order it to pay Maui Jim's attorneys' fees for opposing SmartBuy's Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's prior rulings pursuant to Rule 37(a)(5)(B). The Court disagrees.

         SmartBuy's Motion for Reconsideration [ECF No. 113] was a discovery-related motion and therefore Rule 37(a)(5)(B) applies. Among other things, in that Motion, SmartBuy seeks “expedited discovery into potential contemptuous conduct.” [ECF No. 113, at 1.] In addition, in the body of the Motion, SmartBuy says “this Court must stop all further discovery into SmartBuyGlasses' supply chain “ and it says “the Court should allow SmartBuyGlasses to obtain fulsome discovery on the background of what Maui Jim claims to be the events and discussions leading up to its most recent decisions to attack SmartBuyGlasses' [suppliers].” Id. at pp. 4, 6. Therefore, although styled as a motion for reconsideration, SmartBuy's motion clearly sought to block certain discovery and permission to undertake other discovery. SmartBuy's prayer for relief similarly was focused on the discovery it wanted to take and the discovery it wanted the Court to prevent. Id. at pp. 6-7. This was clearly a discovery-related motion and the fact that it was styled as a motion for reconsideration of the Court's prior discovery rulings does not change the fact that it was a discovery motion. Therefore, in the Court's view, Rule 37(a)(5)(B) applies.

         Furthermore, the cases cited by SmartBuy for the proposition that its Motion for Reconsideration is properly governed by Rule 54(b) rather than Rule 37(a) are inapposite and readily distinguishable. In Zurich Capital Markets, Inc. v. Coglianese, 383 F.Supp.2d 1041 (N.D. Ill. 2005), the defendants moved for reconsideration of the court's ruling on the defendants' motion to dismiss that the plaintiff's fraud allegations met the pleading requirements of Rule 9(b). In Manley v. Boat/U.S., Inc., 2017 WL 5191952 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 9, 2017), the court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant on two counts, but denied summary judgment as to the three remaining counts of the plaintiff's complaint. The defendant then moved for reconsideration of the court's denial of summary judgment on those three counts. Id. Thus, unlike the instant case, Manley and Zurich involved requests for reconsideration of rulings on dispositive motions, completely unrelated to discovery.

         Therefore, the Court remains of the view that SmartBuy should have met and conferred with Maui Jim under Local Rule 37.2 before filing a discovery-related motion. But, even if Local Rule 37.2 does not technically apply, the failure to comply with that Local Rule was not the sole predicate for the Court's order that SmartBuy pay Maui Jim's fees. This was a discovery motion that was not well-founded and it was denied. And Rule 37(a)(5)(B) says the Court must award fees unless “the motion substantially justified or other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(5)(B).


         Second, SmartBuy argues that the attorneys' fees Maui Jim incurred in responding to SmartBuy's motion were excessive and that any award of fees against SmartBuy should be substantially reduced from what Maui Jim is requesting. The Court agrees with SmartBuy.

         Maui Jim's request for reimbursement of $18, 649 in attorneys' fees for its response brief is, in the Court's view, excessive for several reasons:

(1) The senior attorney on this file, billing at $655 an hour, spent the lion's share of the time drafting Maui Jim's response to SmartBuy's Motion;
(2) The billing records show substantial overlap between the work being done by the senior and more junior lawyers for “drafting, ” “preparing, ” and “reviewing” the ...

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