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Bel Air Plaza Limited Partnership v. Ross Dress for Less, Inc

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 23, 2016

BEL AIR PLAZA LIMITED PARTNERSHIP
v.
ROSS DRESS FOR LESS, INC

          MEMORANDUM

          CATHERINE C. BLAKE, District Judge.

         Now pending is Bel Air Plaza Limited Partnership's motion for attorneys' fees and expert witness costs. (Mot. Attorneys' Fees, ECF No. 38). Oral argument is not necessary to resolve the issues. See Local R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). The court will assume familiarity with this case, and will recount only those facts necessary to resolve the pending motion.[1]

         This dispute arises from water damage in a store leased by Ross Dress for Less, Inc. ("Ross") from Bel Air Plaza Limited Partnership ("Bel Air"). Bel Air filed a declaratory judgment action in the Circuit Court for Harford County, Maryland. (Compl., ECF No. 2). Ross timely removed the suit to this court and filed a counterclaim. (Answer & Countercl., ECF No.

         7). Bel Air moved for summary judgment, which this court granted after allowing additional discovery to proceed on several late-produced documents. (Order, ECF No. 33; Memorandum, ECF No. 36; Order, ECF No. 37).

         In granting summary judgment, the court held that Bel Air is a "prevailing party" entitled to attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to section 20.4.2 of the lease agreement between the two parties. (Memorandum 12, ECF No. 36). Bel Air timely filed a motion for attorneys' fees and costs. (Mot. Attorneys' Fees, ECF No. 38). Ross contests the fee request as being "vague, excessive, duplicative and otherwise unreasonable." (Opp'n Mot. Attorneys' Fees 1, ECF No. 41). For the reasons that follow, Bel Air's motion will be granted with some reductions to the amount requested.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Standard of Review

         Maryland law[2] provides an exception to the "American Rule"[3] when a contract provision provides for an award of attorneys' fees. See Myers v. Kayhoe, 391 Md. 188, 207 (2006) ("Contract provisions providing for awards of attorney's fees to the prevailing party in litigation under the contract generally are valid and enforceable in Maryland."). The award, however, is limited to reasonable fees and costs. To receive attorneys' fees, the prevailing party must provide "detailed records" that specify "the services performed, by whom they were performed, the time expended thereon, and the hourly rates charged." Rauch v. McCall, 134 Md.App. 624, 639 (2000) (citation omitted). "The burden is on the party seeking recovery to provide the evidence necessary for the fact finder to evaluate the reasonableness of the fees." Atl. Contracting & Material Co. v. Ulico Cas. Co., 380 Md. 285, 316 (2004) (citation omitted). The court "should use the factors set forth in Rule 1.5 [of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct ("MRPC")] as the foundation for analysis of what constitutes a reasonable fee when the court awards fees based on a contract entered by the parties." Monmouth Meadows Homeowners Ass'n, Inc. v. Hamilton, 416 Md. 325, 336-37 (2010).[4] "The reasonableness of attorneys' fees is generally a factual determination within the sound discretion of [the court]." Atl. Contracting, 380 Md. at 316 (internal quotation mark and citation omitted).

         Rule 1.5(a) provides non-exclusive "factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee":

(1) the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
(2) the likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment of the lawyer;
(3) the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
(4) the amount involved and the results obtained;
(5) the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
(6) the nature and length of the professional relationship ...

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