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Uche v. Montgomery Hospice, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

January 27, 2015

MAUREEN UCHE, Plaintiff,
v.
MONTGOMERY HOSPICE, INC., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CHARLES B. DAY, Magistrate Judge.

Before this Court is Defendants' Affidavit re Order on Motion to Dismiss Regarding Attorneys' Fees and Costs in Connection with Plaintiff's July 10, 2014 Deposition by Montgomery Hospice (ECF No. 100) (hereinafter the "Affidavit") and Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Affidavit (ECF No. 104) (hereinafter the "Motion to Strike"). The Court has reviewed the motions, related memoranda, and applicable law. No hearing is deemed necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons presented below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' reasonable attorneys' fees as described below and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion to Strike.

I. Background

On March 24, 2013, Maureen Uche ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint against Montgomery Hospice, Inc., and Robert Washington (collectively "Defendants") for failure to fairly compensate Plaintiff for her work at Montgomery Hospice. ECF No. 1. On July 10, 2014, Defendants attempted to depose Plaintiff. Plaintiff received four court orders compelling her attendance, but did not attend. Two weeks later, on July 22, 2014, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Comply with Court Orders ("Motion to Dismiss") and requesting reasonable attorneys' fees associated with three unsuccessful depositions. ECF No. 81. On October 10, 2014, this Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss, but granted the motion for attorneys' fees only for those fees related to the July 10, 2014, deposition, and "directed [Defendants] to submit an affidavit and/or other submission in support of specific fees and costs related to the deposition on July 10, 2014." ECF No. 98, p. 15. This Court also informed Plaintiff that she could respond via "objections to the amount of fees and/or reasonableness" and/or by "providing a factual basis on which the Court may find that the imposition of attorney's fees would be unfair. Id.

Michael J. Neary, counselor for Defendants, filed his Affidavit on October 24, 2014, and alleges that Plaintiff owes $2, 970 in attorneys' fees and costs. Plaintiff filed her reply and Motion to Strike on November 3, 2014, and alleges that the July 1, 2014 hearing was scheduled in an improper manner, that the date of the July 10, 2014 deposition was unfair to Plaintiff, that the Affidavit does not provide required information in the correct form to determine the reasonableness of the claimed fees, and that the imposition of fees upon Plaintiff is unjust because she is unable to pay them. This Court has already ruled and explained that the hearing and deposition were properly scheduled. ECF No. 97, 98. As such, this discussion will focus on whether Defendants and Mr. Neary together have demonstrated the reasonableness of the fees claimed in the proper form, whether Plaintiff has provided a factual basis upon which the Court may find the imposition of fees would be unfair, and what the reasonable fees and costs would be.

II. Discussion

a. The motion for attorneys' fees is in the proper form.

Plaintiff argues that the Affidavit does not provide sufficient information to determine the reasonableness of the fees and costs claimed because it does not cite legal authority, fails to provide the time spent and related hourly rates, and "contains a non-certified invoice from a digital evidence group." Motion to Strike, p. 7.

Our Local Rules govern the proper form for a motion for attorneys' fees. Specifically, they require that:

"Any motion requesting the award of attorneys' fees must be supported by a memorandum setting forth the nature of the case, the claims as to which the party prevailed, the claims as to which the party did not prevail, a detailed description of the work performed broken down by hours or fractions thereof expended on each task, the attorney's customary fee for such like work, the customary fee for like work prevailing in the attorney's community, a listing of any expenditures for which reimbursement is sought, any additional factors which are required by the case law, and any additional factors that the attorney wishes to bring to the Court's attention."

Local Rule 109(2) (D. Md.) (July, 2014) (hereinafter "Local Rule 109(2)"). In Defendants motion to dismiss, they noted that "In March 2013, Plaintiff sued Montgomery Hospice, Inc. and Robert Washington, Ph.D, M. Div (collectively "the Hospice") for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and Maryland Wage and Hour Law." ECF No. 81-1, p. 2. I find that this language sufficiently "set[s] forth the nature of the case." Local Rule 109(2). In the Affidavit, Mr. Neary notes that "On October 10, 2014, this Court entered its Order granting Defendants attorneys' fees and costs incurred related to Plaintiff's failure to attend her Court Ordered July 10, 2014 deposition." Affidavit, p. 1. I find that this language sufficiently explains "the claims as to which the party prevailed" as relevant here. Local Rule 109(2).

The Affidavit provides a chart explaining the hours worked in preparation for and attendance of the deposition, which alleges that attorney Michael J. Neary spent 7.6 hours preparing for the deposition between July 7-July 10, 2014, and 1.9 hours attending the deposition on July 10, 2014. Affidavit, p. 2. I find that this represents a sufficiently "detailed description of the work performed." Local Rule 109(2).

Under the Local Rules, an attorney "admitted to the bar for five (5) to eight (8) years" may claim between $165-300 per hour of work as reasonable attorneys' fees. Local Rules, App. B(3) (D. Md.) (July, 2014). The Affidavit notes that Mr. Neary has been in private practice "since September 2007" and that Mr. Neary's "rate for this case is $260 per hour, " which is "within the range set by this Court's Rules and Guidelines for Determining Attorneys' Fees in Certain Cases for an attorney admitted to the bar for seven years such as [Mr. Neary]." Affidavit, p. 1-2. This sufficiently explains "the attorney's customary fee for such like work" and "the customary fee for like work." Local Rule 109(2).

Finally, the Affidavit explains "Defendants incurred a cost of $500.00 for the [attendance] of a videographer and court reporter" at the July 10, 2014, deposition. Affidavit, p. 2. They also provided a receipt from the Digital Evidence Group, the company they scheduled to provide the transcript and video services, showing the aforementioned services were provided for $500. Affidavit, Ex. A. I find that this, in conjunction with the table in which Mr. Neary alleges he did $2, 740 ...


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