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Lee A. Donaldson v. Informatica Corporation

August 3, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Senior District Judge



On June 10, 2011, Plaintiff Lee A. Donaldson ("Plaintiff" or "Donaldson") filed a Motion to Enforce Court Ordered Sanctions against Defendant Informatica Corporation (ADefendant@ or AInformatica@) seeking attorneys‟ fees related to the preparation and taking of the depositions of two Informatica executives in August 2010. (Docket No. 74). Defendant opposes Plaintiff‟s Motion. (Docket No. 76). After careful consideration of the submissions of the parties, and based on my Opinion below, the Motion (Docket No. 74) is granted in part and denied in part.


During discovery in this wrongful discharge action, it came to light that certain documents Informatica produced to Plaintiff concerning sales data were incomplete. Specifically, during the May 21, 2010 deposition of Informatica‟s Vice President of Sales, Ron Ariana, Mr. Ariana questioned the accuracy of certain sales numbers. Following the deposition, Informatica‟s counsel worked with Informatica to confirm the accuracy of the information in question. Through that process, it was determined that the documents at issue were incomplete, and Informatica produced additional documents to Plaintiff.

On June 1, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Sanctions (Docket No. 36) seeking, inter alia, to reconvene the depositions of Ariana and Informatica Regional Manager Ed Rieland at Informatica‟s expense. Informatica opposed the motion. On June 8, 2010, I entered an Order directing, inter alia, Informatica to (1) produce Ariana and Rieland for deposition in Pittsburgh at Informatica‟s expense and (2) pay for all "reasonable legal fees and expenses incurred in preparing for and taking the foregoing continued depositions." (Docket No. 40). After additional discovery, Plaintiff took Rieland‟s reconvened deposition on August 6, 2010 and Ariana‟s reconvened deposition on August 10, 2010. Almost one year later, Plaintiff filed the instant motion (Docket No. 74) on June 10, 2011 seeking a fee award of $24,982.00 pursuant to the June 8, 2010 Order. Informatica filed a Brief in Opposition on June 20, 2011. (Docket No. 76). Plaintiff filed a Reply Brief with leave of court on July 5, 2011. (Docket No. 84). The motion is now ripe for my review.


Courts have held that the lodestar method of calculating reasonable attorneys‟ fees applies to fees awarded as discovery sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37. See Johnson v. EMC Mortgage Corp., Adversary No. 02-0030, 2005 WL 6508307, at *2 (Bkrtcy. E.D. Pa. Feb. 14, 2005) (citing cases). The lodestar formula requires multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983); Loughner v. Univ. of Pittsburgh, 260 F.3d 173, 176 (3d Cir. 2001). "A District Court has substantial discretion in determining what constitutes a reasonable rate and reasonable hours, but once the lodestar is determined, it is presumed to be the reasonable fee." Lanni v. New Jersey, 259 F.3d 146, 149 (3d Cir. 2001). "A party seeking attorney fees bears the ultimate burden of showing that its requested hourly rates and the hours it claims are reasonable." Interfaith Cmty. Org. v. Honeywell Int‟l, Inc., 426 F.3d 694, 703 n.5 (3d Cir. 2005).

In determining hours reasonably expended, a "court must be careful to exclude from counsel‟s fee request "hours that are excessive, redundant or otherwise unnecessary.‟" Holmes v. Millcreek Twp. Sch. Dist., 205 F.3d 583, 595 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434). Hours that generally would not be billed to one‟s own client are not properly billed to an adversary. Pub. Interest Research Grp. of N.J., Inc. v. Windall, 51 F.3d 1179, 1188 (3d Cir. 1995).

Here, Plaintiff claims he incurred $24,982.00 in attorneys‟ fees and expenses preparing for and taking the two reconvened depositions at issue. Informatica contends that Plaintiff‟s request is unreasonable and outrageous given that the depositions took a combined total of five hours to complete. Although Informatica does not dispute the reasonableness of the hourly rates charged by Plaintiff‟s counsel,*fn1 it vigorously contests the reasonableness of the number of hours Plaintiff‟s counsel claims to have expended preparing for the depositions. Informatica further argues that a substantial portion of the fees for which Plaintiff seeks payment are unrelated to the reconvened depositions and thus fall outside the scope of my June 8, 2010 Order. Finally, Informatica contends that many of the time entries at issue are vague and/or redundant and, therefore, are unrecoverable. Informatica suggests that $5,650.00 represents a reasonable fee for preparing for and taking the reconvened depositions.*fn2 After careful review and for the reasons set forth below, I agree with Informatica that much of Plaintiff‟s instant fee request is unreasonable, excessive, and far beyond the scope of my June 8, 2010 Order.

A. Undisputed Objections

In its Reply Brief, Plaintiff does not dispute a number of Informatica‟s objections to the billing entries at issue. First, Plaintiff agrees that he cannot include the time entered by Attorney Schneider for his attendance at the reconvened depositions -- a total of 9.3 hours at $165.00, or $1,534.50. See Docket No. 84-2 at 3-4 & n.4 (red strikethroughs). Second, Plaintiff admits that the billing entries on page 12 of Defendant‟s brief totaling $218 are too vague to be evaluated for reasonableness. See Docket No. 84-2 at 1-4 & n.2 (blue strikethroughs). Third, Plaintiff agrees to remove the time entries for attorney Tara Fertelmes and law clerk Jonathan Steele as duplicative for a total of $191.50. See Docket No. 84-2 at 1-4 & n.3 (green strikethroughs). Fourth, Plaintiff concedes that a total of $4,208 should be stricken from the billing log because the fees are unrelated to the reconvened depositions at issue. See Docket No. 84-2 at 1-4 & n.1 (yellow strikethroughs).*fn3 In sum, Plaintiff agrees that a total of $6,152 should be stricken from the billing records attached to Plaintiff‟s motion for fees. Accordingly, the fees requested are reduced by that amount to $18,830.*fn4

B. Disputed Objections

Plaintiff disputes the remainder of Informatica‟s objections to the fees requested. I address ...

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