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Cognizant Technology Solutions U.S. Corporation v. McAfee

United States District Court, N.D. California

August 7, 2014

COGNIZANT TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS U.S. CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN McAFEE, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART APPLICATION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS Re: Dkt. No. 36

WILLIAM H. ORRICK, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Cognizant Technology Solutions U.S. Corporation ("Cognizant") is seeking attorney's fees and costs for a three-month long case in which it obtained a default judgment. The defendant did not appear and no motions were opposed. Cognizant requests $158, 678.51.

Under Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), I find this matter suitable for disposition without oral argument and VACATE the hearing currently scheduled for August 13, 2014, and I GRANT in part the application for attorney's fees and costs. While this case was unusual because of the difficulty in serving the defendant, the underlying legal issues were not complicated, especially for a firm of the caliber of the plaintiff's counsel. Cognizant's counsel failed to establish entitlement to, and the reasonableness of, many time entries because of insufficient descriptions, redacted entries, and unreasonable time devoted to certain tasks. I am reducing the award to $130, 341.73.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Cognizant filed a complaint for violations of Sections 32 and 43(a) of the federal Lanham Act and California Business & Professions Code § 14247 against defendant John McAfee d/b/a Future Tense Central ("McAfee") on March 11, 2014. It made numerous attempts to serve McAfee with the complaint, summons, and other documents. It attempted personal service on McAfee at two separate residences in California. It also attempted to give notice of the action to McAfee by overnight mail at two additional addresses-one in Oregon and one in Colorado-as well as by email and through his personal website. Cognizant made several other unsuccessful attempts to serve McAfee at various addresses.

McAfee failed to appear to oppose a temporary restraining order sought by Cognizant and failed to respond to an order to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not issue. On April 4, 2014, I deemed McAfee served. On June 13, 2014, on Cognizant's motion, I entered default judgment against McAfee.

Cognizant now moves for attorney's fees and costs. It requests attorney's fees of $153, 242.96 for 275.5 hours of attorney time, $3, 863.90 of taxable costs, $1, 571.65 of non-taxable costs, and return of the $100.00 bond posted by Cognizant. Rodrigues Decl. ¶ 37.

LEGAL STANDARD

"[T]he fee applicant bears the burden of establishing entitlement to an award and documenting the appropriate hours expended and hourly rates." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983). "When it sets a fee, the district court must first determine the presumptive lodestar figure by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation by the reasonable hourly rate." Intel Corp. v. Terabyte Int'l, Inc., 6 F.3d 614, 622 (9th Cir. 1993). "Hours that are not properly billed to one's client also are not properly billed to one's adversary pursuant to statutory authority." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983) (original emphasis) (citation omitted). "The district court [ ] should exclude from this initial fee calculation hours that were not reasonably expended.'" Id. "Cases may be overstaffed, and the skill and experience of lawyers vary widely, " so a court must exclude fees for hours that are "excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary." Id.

Where appropriate, "the district court may adjust the presumptively reasonable' lodestar figure based upon the factors listed in Kerr v. Screen Extras Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 69-70 (9th Cir. 1975)." Secalt S.A. v. Wuxi Shenxi Const. Mach. Co., Ltd., 668 F.3d 677, 689 (9th Cir. 2012). The Kerr factors include: "(1) the time and labor required, (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, (3) the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly, (4) the preclusion of other employment by the attorney due to 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." Kerr, 526 F.2d at 70.

DISCUSSION

The fact that there is no party to challenge an application for attorney's fees and costs does not mean that a court should rubber-stamp the request. On the contrary, it may be even more imperative for a court to scrutinize such a motion.

My task is to multiply the number of hours reasonably expended in this litigation by the reasonable hourly rate in order to calculate the presumptively reasonable lodestar figure. To the extent that my consideration of the Kerr factors has not already been subsumed in the initial lodestar calculation, I may then adjust the lodestar figure up or down based on the Kerr factors.

I. THE HOURLY RATES ARE REASONABLE.

Cognizant's counsel, the law firm of DLA Piper, is a large, multi-office firm with multiple practices, including an Intellectual Property & Technology Practice Group and a Litigation Practice Group. See generally Rodrigues Decl. ¶¶ 11-23. The hourly billing rate for individuals staffed on this action range from a high of $650.00 for partner Leon Medzhibovsky to a low of $263.50 for senior paralegal Jeff Reeves. Rodrigues Decl. ¶¶ 12, 23. The attorneys staffed on this case are ...


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