Magistrate Judge Stickney Grants Motion For Costs, Finds $350/Hour Attorney-Fee Rate Reasonable

On September 11, 2017, Magistrate Judge Stickney entered an Order (available here) in The Sugar Art v. Confectionary Arts International. In the case, the plaintiff previously brought suit against the defendant in the Western District of Texas, and, in response to the defendant’s motion to dismiss, filed a notice of voluntary dismissal. On the same day that the plaintiff filed a notice of voluntary dismissal, the plaintiff filed an identical complaint in the Northern District of Texas. The defendant again filed a motion to dismiss (or, in the alternative, transfer to Connecticut). Defendant also file a motion for costs, requesting that the plaintiff pay for costs incurred in defending the Western District of Texas suit. Defendant’s fees and expenses from that suit totaled $8,142.37.

Under Rule 41(d),

[if] a plaintiff who previously dismissed an action in any court files an action based on or including the same claim against the same defendant, the court (1) may order the plaintiff to pay all or part of the costs of that previous action; and (2) may stay the proceeding until the plaintiff has complied.

Judge Stickney found that:

The award of costs under Rule 41(d) is at the Court’s discretion. Although a showing of bad faith is not required for the Court to impose costs, a showing of good faith may be a factor in the Court’s decision not to impose costs. Rule 41(d) serves as a deterrent to forum shopping and does not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary dismissals. Thus, this Court retains the authority to award attorneys’ fees as a condition to bringing the new action.

Plaintiff emphasizes that because it filed the Western District Suit based on a good faith belief that Defendant sold its products to distributors in the Western District, the Court should deny Defendant’s Motion for Costs. Plaintiff further contends that it dismissed the Western District Suit in order to ensure proper service. However, when refiling the case in the Northern District, Plaintiff committed the same defect of service as it did in the Western District Suit. Plaintiff does not dispute that the claims brought in the Northern District are the same as those in the Western District Suit. Therefore, the Court may award attorney’s fees incurred by Defendant in the Western District Suit if it deems such award appropriate.

Upon consideration of the parties’ briefs, the evidence produced at the hearing, and the applicable law, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s actions were not taken in bad faith, however, attorney’s fees are still appropriate given the circumstances. Defendant’s attorney asserts that he worked 22.75 hours on the Western District Suit at the rate of $350 an hour. The Court finds this rate is reasonable under the circumstances. Defendants also incurred $179.87 in expenses. Plaintiff did not contest the rate or amount of hours. Therefore, the Court awards Defendants $7,962.50 in attorney’s fees and $179.87 in costs relating to the Western District Suit.

This entry was posted in Attorney's Fees, Magistrate Judge Stickney. Bookmark the permalink.