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Black Hills Molding, Inc. v. Brandom Holdings, LLC

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

January 10, 2014

BLACK HILLS MOLDING, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
BRANDOM HOLDINGS, LLC, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S REQUEST FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES [DOCKET NOS. 39 & 40]

VERONICA L. DUFFY, Magistrate Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Previously, defendant Brandom Holdings, LLC (hereinafter "Brandom") filed a motion to compel plaintiff Black Hills Molding, Inc. (hereinafter "Black Hills Molding") to provide certain documents and discovery responses to requests propounded by Brandom. See Docket No. 26. This court granted in part and denied in part that motion. See Docket No. 38. Now before the court is Brandom Holdings' motion for an award of $11, 810 in attorney's fees as sanctions for having to pursue the motion to compel. See Docket Nos. 39 and 40. The following is this court's ruling on that request.

FACTS

This action was removed from state court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. In its complaint, Black Hills Molding asserts that it agreed with Brandom's predecessor, Brandom Southwest, to procure and stock certain wood products and to supply those products to Brandom Southwest upon Brandom Southwest's demand. Because of the "just in time" nature of the contract, the agreement required certain reporting from Brandom Southwest to Black Hills Molding so as to enable Black Hills Molding to anticipate Brandom Southwest's supply needs. Black Hills Molding alleges that Brandom purchased Brandom Southwest in May of 2009 and that Brandom continued its inventory purchase arrangement with Black Hills Molding unchanged until approximately 2011.

In 2011, Black Hills Molding alleges that Brandom's orders and reports to Black Hills Molding became more erratic. Finally, Black Hills Molding alleges Brandom stopped ordering wood products altogether from Black Hills Molding, leaving Black Hills Molding with a stock of Brandom's inventory. Black Hills Molding sued Brandom, asserting claims of breach of contract and promissory estoppel. A key issue in this lawsuit is whether Brandom can be held accountable under the terms of the contract entered into by Brandom Southwest.

As to this issue and others, Brandom propounded a number of requests for admission, interrogatories, and requests for the production of documents to Black Hills Molding, seeking in a number of different ways to determine what plaintiff's theory was for holding Brandom liable under a contract entered into by another business entity and what evidence and legal theories Black Hills Molding was relying on in this regard.

Black Hills Molding stonewalled these discovery requests. Black Hills Molding produced 534 pages of documents in its initial discovery disclosure under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26. Then, in response to almost all of Brandom's discrete discovery requests, Black Hills Molding simply responded "see BH Molding 1-534." In addition, the interrogatories-which Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33 require to be signed under oath by the party itself-were signed only by Black Hills Molding's attorney. No additional documents were produced by Black Hills Molding, despite its agent's testimony in an aborted Rule 30(b)(6) deposition that there were in fact other responsive documents in addition to the 534 pages initially produced by Black Hills Molding.

After repeated unsuccessful attempts to reach an agreement with Black Hills Molding regarding its discovery requests, Brandom filed a motion to compel. The court granted the request almost entirely. The one exception was that the court refused to grant Brandom's request to deem admitted its requests for admission on the basis that Black Hills Molding filed its responses one day late.

Brandom now seeks an award of attorney's fees as sanctions against Black Hills Molding for having had to file the motion to compel. In that regard, Brandom filed itemized time entries and affidavits in support of its request for attorney's fees. See Docket Nos. 39, 39-1, 40, 43. Brandom seeks remuneration for its local attorney's time at a rate of $250 per hour and for its local attorney's paralegal at a rate of $100 per hour. Brandom seeks payment for 13.4 hours of its local attorney's time at a cost of $3, 350 and for 2.7 hours of its local paralegal's time at a cost of $270.

Brandom is also represented by two lawyers from Dallas, Texas. Brandom seeks remuneration for its Texas attorneys' time at a rate of $300 per hour for both attorneys. Brandom seeks payment for 27.3 hours of its Texas lawyers' time at a cost of $8, 190. Thus, Brandom's request is as follows:

27.3 hours of Texas counsel's time at $300 per hour $8, 190 13.4 hours of local counsel's time at $250 per hour $3, 350 2.7 hours of local paralegal's time at $100 per hour $ 270 ______ 43.4 Total Hours Total Fees Requested: $11, 810

Black Hills Molding filed a response in opposition to Brandom's request for attorney's fees. Although Black Hills Molding does not object to the awarding of attorney's fees in principal, it does object to the amount requested. Black Hills Molding urges that Brandom's request be reduced, taking issue with both the number of hours ...


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