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Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood, LLC v. Rogers

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

October 5, 2017




         Pending before the Court is Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood, LLC's (“Constellium”) Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs. (ECF No. 142.) The motion is unopposed. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On September 24, 2015, Constellium filed a Complaint against Defendant Kenneth Rogers, its former human resources executive. Rogers, in turn, brought suit alleging race discrimination, hostile work environment, and other claims related to the termination of his employment. The actions were consolidated on June 9, 2016. By the time the consolidated case was ready for trial, one claim remained on each side: Rogers' race discrimination claim and Constellium's fraud claim. The matter was tried to a jury between May 9 and May 12, 2017. On May 12, 2017, the jury returned a verdict in Constellium's favor. The jury found “by clear and convincing evidence that Kenneth Rogers perpetrated a fraud against [Constellium].” (Verdict Form, ECF No. 129.) As to Rogers' race discrimination claim, the jury found Constellium not liable.

         Following entry of judgment on May 15, 2017, Constellium filed the pending Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs. Rogers' counsel moved to withdraw from the case shortly thereafter. That motion was granted on June 16, 2016 and Rogers now proceeds pro se for purposes of all post-judgment matters. On August 8, 2017, the Court entered an Order directing Rogers to respond to the Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs by August 28, 2017. To date, Rogers has not responded.


         Attorneys' fees are ordinarily not a recoverable cost of litigation in the American legal system. See Koontz v. Wells Fargo N.A., No. 2:10-cv-00864, 2013 WL 1337260, at *3 (S.D. W.Va. Mar. 29, 2013). However, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia has held that “[w]here it can be shown by clear and convincing evidence that a defendant has engaged in fraudulent conduct which has injured a plaintiff, recovery of reasonable attorney's fees may be obtained in addition to the damages sustained as a result of the fraudulent conduct.” Syl. Pt. 4, Bowling v. Ansted Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge, Inc., 425 S.E.2d 144 ( W.Va. 1992).

         Calculating a reasonable attorney's fee award involves two steps. First, the district court determines a “lodestar” figure by multiplying the hours an attorney spent on the case by a reasonable hourly rate of compensation. Koontz, 2013 WL 1337260, at *6 (citing Lindy Bros. Builders, Inc. v. Am. Radiator & Standard Sanitary Corp., 487 F.2d 161, 167 (3d Cir. 1973)). Second, the court may adjust the lodestar amount after consideration of the following factors:

(1) The time and labor expended; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions raised; (3) the skill required to properly perform the legal services rendered; (4) the attorney's opportunity costs in pressing the instant litigation; (5) the customary fee for like work; (6) the attorney's expectations at the outset of the litigation; (7) the time limitations imposed by the client or circumstances; (8) the amount in controversy and the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorney[s]; (10) the undesirability of the case within the legal community in which the suit arose; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship between attorney and client; and (12) attorneys' fees awards in similar cases.

McAfee v. Boczar, 738 F.3d 81, 88 n. 5 (4th Cir. 2013) (citing Barber v. Kimbrell's Inc., 577 F.2d 216, 226 n. 28 (4th Cir. 1978)).


         In support of its Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs, Constellium has submitted the affidavit of its lead trial counsel, Christopher L. Slaughter, along with detailed invoices for professional legal services performed between September 1, 2015 and May 31, 2017.

         The Court begins by determining reasonable hourly rates. The affidavit explains that Constellium is a regular client of Mr. Slaughter's law firm, Steptoe & Johnson PLLC (“Steptoe”). Steptoe is a large and respected law firm in the Charleston, West Virginia area. The legal services performed in relation to the fraud claim were billed at the regular rates assigned to Constellium, which are discounted from the firm's standard rates. As revealed by the invoices, the hourly rates ranged from $110.50 to $148.50 for paralegals, $187 to $198 for associates, $259.25 to $274.50 for of-counsel attorneys, and $170 to $314.50 for partners.[1] All told, five paralegals, one associate, one of-counsel attorney, and four partners contributed their labor to the prosecution of the fraud claim. The bulk of the hours billed were submitted by two seasoned partners, Mr.

         Slaughter and Norrie C. Currens. Mr. Slaughter and Ms. Currens led the legal team from the outset and were responsible for trying the case to a favorable verdict. These attorneys typically billed $280.50 and $267.75 per hour for their services, respectively.[2] The combined attorneys' fees and costs ...

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