United States District Court, D. Maryland
LIPTON HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Memorandum resolves the motion for attorneys' fees and
costs (ECF 60) filed by defendant/counterclaim plaintiff J.K.
Technologies, LLC (“J.K.”). It is supported by a
memorandum of law (ECF 60-1) (collectively,
“Motion”) and several exhibits documenting
J.K.'s fees and costs. ECF 60-3 to ECF 60-5.
Motion follows the Court's entry of summary judgment in
favor of J.K., finding Griaznov liable to defendant in the
amount of $131, 012.83, plus costs. See ECF 58; ECF
59. The judgment is rooted in a contract to bring a 2012
McLaren MP4-12C into compliance with government regulations
regarding safety and emissions. See ECF 45-4 (the
“Agreement”). The facts of that case are set out
at length in my Memorandum Opinion of September 11, 2018,
which are incorporated here, and need not be restated.
See ECF 58.
has not responded to the Motion, and the time to do so has
expired. No. hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion.
See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I
will reduce the attorneys' hourly rates to bring them
into compliance with the rates customarily permitted in this
District. As a result, I will award $92, 530.00 in fees to
defendant. I will also award $548.66 in costs, for a total of
Agreement states, in pertinent part: “If J.K. employs
attorneys to enforce any rights arising out of or relating to
this Agreement, and J.K. prevails in any action brought by
its attorneys, [Griaznov] shall pay J.K.'s reasonable
attorneys' fees, costs and other expenses.” ECF
45-4 at 4. Pursuant to the Agreement, J.K. seeks
attorneys' fees and costs associated with this
litigation. See ECF 61.
diversity action such as this, see 28 U.S.C. §
1332, a party's right to recover attorneys' fees is
ordinarily governed by state law. See IOM Corp. v. Brown
Forman Corp., 627 F.3d 440, 451 (1st Cir. 2010);
McCollum v. State Farm Ins. Co., 376 Fed.Appx. 217,
220 (3d Cir. 2010); Ranger Const. Co. v. Prince William
County Sch. Bd., 605 F.2d 1298, 1301 (4th Cir. 1979);
Rohn Prods. Int'l, LC v. Sofitel Capital Corp.,
WDQ-06-504, 2010 WL 3943747, at *4 n.13 (D. Md. Oct. 7,
is the forum state, and its law governs this Court's
choice-of-law analysis. Ground Zero Museum Workshop v.
Wilson, 813 F.Supp.2d 678, 696 (D. Md. 2011). Under
Maryland law, “the parties to a contract may agree as
to the law which will govern their transaction.”
Bank of Am., N.A. v. Jill P. Mitchell Living Trust,
822 F.Supp.2d 505, 517 (D. Md. 2011) (internal quotation
marks omitted). The Agreement contains a choice of law
provision that stipulates to the application of Maryland law.
See ECF 45-4 at 5. Accordingly, I will apply
Maryland law here.
general, Maryland follows the “American Rule, ”
under which “a prevailing party is not awarded
attorneys' fees ‘unless (1) the parties to a
contract have an agreement to that effect, (2) there is a
statute that allows the imposition of such fees, (3) the
wrongful conduct of a defendant forces a plaintiff into
litigation with a third party, or (4) a plaintiff is forced
to defend against a malicious prosecution.'”
Nova Research, Inc. v. Penske Truck Leasing Co., 405
Md. 435, 445, 952 A.2d 275, 281 (2008) (quoting Thomas v.
Gladstone, 386 Md. 693, 699, 874 A.2d 434, 437 (2005)).
provisions providing for awards of attorney's fees to the
prevailing party in litigation under the contract generally
are valid and enforceable in Maryland.” Myers v.
Kayhoe, 391 Md. 188, 207, 892 A.2d 520, 532 (2006).
“It is a fundamental principle of contract law that it
is ‘improper for the court to rewrite the terms of a
contract, or draw a new contract for the parties, when the
terms thereof are clear and unambiguous, simply to avoid
hardships.'” Calomiris v. Woods, 353 Md.
425, 445, 727 A.2d 358, 368 (1999) (quoting Canaras v.
Lift Truck Servs., 272 Md. 337, 350, 322 A.2d 866, 873
(1974)); see Loudin Ins. Agency, Inc. v. Aetna Cas. &
Sur. Co., 966 F.2d 1443, 1992 WL 145269, at *5 (4th Cir.
1992) (per curiam) (“[A] court will not rewrite the
parties' contract simply because one party is no longer
satisfied with the bargain he struck.”).
“Maryland law limits the amount of contractual
attorneys [sic] fees to actual fees incurred, regardless of
whether the contract provides for a greater amount.”
SunTrust Bank v. Goldman, 201 Md.App. 390, 398, 29
A.3d 724, 728 (2011). Moreover, “[e]ven in the absence
of a contract term limiting recovery to reasonable fees,
trial courts are required to read such a term into the
contract and examine the prevailing party's fee request
for reasonableness.” Myers, 391 Md. at 207,
892 A.2d at 532; see also Atl. Contracting & Material
Co. v. Ulico Cas. Co., 380 Md. 285, 316, 844 A.2d 460,
478 (2004); SunTrust, 201 Md.App. at 401, 29 A.3d at
730 (“Current law allows a court to grant only those
attorney's fees it finds reasonable.”). Thus,
“courts must routinely undertake an inquiry into the
reasonableness of any proposed fee before settling on an
award.” Monmouth Meadows Homeowners Ass'n, Inc.
v. Hamilton, 416 Md. 325, 333, 7 A.3d 1, 5 (2010). The
“reasonableness of attorney's fees is a factual
determination within the sound discretion of the
court.” Myers, 391 Md. at 207, 892 A.2d at
burden is on the party seeking recovery to provide the
evidence necessary for the fact finder to evaluate the
reasonableness of the fees.'” Ulico, 380
Md. at 316, 844 A.2d at 478 (citation omitted). Therefore,
the party seeking a fee award 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, 761 A.2d 76, 84 (2000) (citation omitted),
cert. denied, 362 Md. 625, 766 A.2d 148 (2001).
“‘[W]ithout such records, the reasonableness,
vel non, of the fees can be determined only by
conjecture or opinion of the attorney seeking the fees and
would therefore not be supported by competent
evidence.'” Id. at 639, 761 A.2d at 85
courts ordinarily utilize the “lodestar” approach
when determining attorneys' fees under fee-shifting
statutes. Friolo v. Frankel, 373 Md. 501, 504-05,
819 A.2d 354, 356 (2003) (“Friolo
I”). However, the Maryland Court of Appeals has
held that the lodestar approach is “an inappropriate
mechanism for calculating fee awards” under contractual
fee-shifting provisions in “disputes between private
parties over breaches of contract.” Monmouth
Meadows, 416 Md. at 336, 7 A.3d at 7; see also E.
Shore Title Co. v. Ochse, 453 Md. 303, 337, 160 A.3d
1238, 1258 (2017) (stating that the “litigation did not
involve a fee-shifting statute, and therefore the lodestar
method of calculation would not be appropriate”). This
is because a “contractual fee-shifting provision is
designed by the parties, not by the legislature. . . . Thus,
it usually serves no larger public purpose than the interests
of the parties.” Congressional Hotel Corp. v.
Mervis Diamond Corp., 200 Md.App. 489, 505, 28 A.3d 75,
Maryland, in regard to an award based on a contract, a 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 authorizing an award of
fees.” Monmouth Meadows, 416 Md. at 336-37, 7
A.3d at 8. MRPC 1.5(a) enumerates eight 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