Lorillard Tobacco Co. v. Montrose Wholesale Candies & Sundries, Inc., No. 03 C 5311 & 03 C 4844, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jul. 27, 2007) (Cole, J.).*
Judge Cole recommended granting plaintiff Lorillard Tobacco’s (“Lorillard”) petition for attorneys fees, but reduced the requested fees by about $80,000. Lorillard received a default judgment against defendants in 2006 and, as a result, brought this petition seeking its fees and costs. The Court’s opinion is an excellent guide for anyone preparing a fee petition. The Court refused to consider Lorillard’s costs because although Lorillard submitted a list of costs, it did not total the costs or discuss them in its petition and supporting declaration. Next, the Court accepted most of the costs for the four attorneys whose billing rates were explained in the supporting declaration, but denies any fees for the other nineteen people whose fees were not explained in the declaration. The Court notes that these nineteen people could be partners, associates or paralegals, but the Court cannot assess the reasonableness of their rates or billed activities without knowing their roles. And even for the four, the Court notes that it would have preferred some explanation of each attorney’s experience in past Lanham Act cases, in order to judge whether the attorneys’ billing rates were commensurate with their experience.
Finally, the court refused a subset of the fees for the four attorneys that were inadequately described, unnecessarily billed by multiple attorneys or clerical in nature. For example, the Court disallowed two eighteen minute bills for attorneys reviewing a one-sentence minute order changing the date of a status hearing.
Practice tip: Generate thorough bills and have someone with perspective on a case do a sanity check to make sure your client is not being billed for unreasonable work or duplicative efforts. Also, when preparing a fee petition, make sure to support the rates and fees billed by all attorneys and paralegals with detailed affidavits.
* You can read a copy of the opinion here.