United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
TRUSTEES OF THE SHEET METAL WORKERS LOCAL 7 ZONE 3 HEALTH FUND, et al. Plaintiffs,
TRAVERSE BAY ROOFING CO. Defendant.
Honorable Paul D. Borman.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT PLAINTIFFS'
AMENDED MOTION TO AWARD ATTORNEYS' FEES [ECF NO.
Elizabeth A. Stafford United States Magistrate Judge.
2018, Plaintiffs, ERISA employee benefit plans providing
pension and health and welfare benefits, (“the
Funds”) requested and received an entry of judgment by
default against Defendant Traverse Bay Roofing Co. [ECF Nos.
11, 12]. The Funds filed a motion for attorneys' fees in
the amount of $7, 066.00 under ERISA 502(g)(2)(D). [ECF No.
13]. In July 2018, this Court filed a report and
recommendation, concluding that the Funds are entitled to an
award of reasonable attorneys' fees, but that they did
not meet their burden of showing that the hours the attorneys
expended were reasonable because their billing records were
redacted. [ECF No. 15]. The Funds thus filed an amended
motion for attorneys' fees with unredacted billing
records, and the Honorable Paul D. Borman found the earlier
report and recommendation moot. [ECF Nos. 16, 17].
Bay has not responded to the Funds' amended motion, which
was referred to this Court for another report and
recommendation under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). [ECF No.
18]. For the reasons stated below, the Court recommends the
Funds' motion be GRANTED.
Funds filed an amended complaint against Traverse Bay, an
employer obligated to make contributions to the Funds on
behalf of its employees, alleging its failure to submit
reports and remit contributions to the Funds in violation of
ERISA § 515, 29 U.S.C. § 1145. They also alleged
Traverse Bay violated Section 515 of ERISA by failing to
remit liquidated damages and interest due to delinquent
contributions. [ECF No. 4]. Service was perfected on Traverse
Bay, but it failed to answer or otherwise respond to the
Funds' amended complaint. The Clerk issued an entry of
judgment by default in the amount of $1, 856.67.
support of their amended motion, the Funds submitted billing
sheets identifying time entries by various attorneys and
legal assistants for this matter. The submitted itemized
billing sheets reflect a total of 36.4 hours billed for a
total fee of $7, 066.00. [ECF No. 16-2].
29 U.S.C. § 1132(2), when a judgment in favor of a plan
is awarded, as in this case, the Court shall award reasonable
attorney's fees and costs. Bd. of Trustees of Ohio
Laborers' Fringe Ben. Programs v. Dixon Masonry,
Inc., 2011 WL 3793502, at *3 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 25, 2011).
The starting point for determining the amount of reasonable
attorney's fees is the “lodestar” amount.
Id. (citing Imwalle v. Reliance Med. Prods.,
Inc., 515 F.3d 531, 551 (6th Cir.2008)). This is
calculated by multiplying the number of hours reasonably
expended on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate.
Id. “Where the party seeking attorney fees has
established that the number of hours and the rate claimed are
reasonable, the lodestar is presumed to be the reasonable fee
to which counsel is entitled.” Pennsylvania v. Del.
Valley Citizens Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546,
565-566, 106 S.Ct. 3088, 92 L.Ed.2d 439 (1986).
have held that, once the lodestar figure is derived, an
upward or downward adjustment is permitted based upon twelve
factors first listed in Johnson v. Georgia Highway
Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir.
1974). Geier v. Sundquist, 372 F.3d 784,
792 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart,
461 U.S. 424 (1983)). But many of the Johnson
“factors usually are subsumed within the initial
calculation of hours reasonably expended at a reasonable
hourly rate.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434, n. 9.
And more recently, the Supreme Court discouraged use of the
Johnson factors except in rare or exceptional
circumstances, deeming the lodestar method more objective and
reiterating that “the lodestar figure includes most, if
not all, of the relevant factors constituting a reasonable
attorney's fee.” Perdue v. Kenny A. ex. rel.
Winn, 559 U.S. 542, 553 (2010) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). There is a “strong
presumption” that the lodestar figure is reasonable,
and there are few circumstances in which it should be deemed
inadequate. Id. at 554.
first step of the lodestar-determining the reasonable hourly
rate to be applied-courts initially assess the
“prevailing market rate in the relevant
community”. Adcock-Ladd v. Sec. of Treasury ,
227 F.3d 343, 350 (6th Cir. 2000). The prevailing market rate
can be demonstrated in a number of ways including affidavits
from attorneys or experts; citations to prior precedents
showing reasonable rate adjudications for comparable
attorneys or cases; references to fee award studies showing
reasonable rates charged or awarded in the relevant
community; testimony from experts or other attorneys in the
relevant community; discovery rates charged by the opposition
party; and reliance on the court's own ...