United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
ENI U.S. OPERATING CO INC., Plaintiff,
TRANSOCEAN OFFSHORE DEEPWATER DRILLING INC, Defendant.
H. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling
Inc.'s ("Transocean") Motion for and
Declaration in Support of Attorney's Fees and Non-taxable
costs (Doc. #127 & Doc. #130), Eni Operating Co.
Inc.'s ("Eni") Response in Opposition (Doc.
#134), and Transocean's Reply (Doc. #139). On January 19,
2018, the Court entered final judgment in this case.
Transocean, the prevailing party, thereafter moved for
attorney's fees and costs. On March 20, 2018, the Court
heard oral argument on the Motion. After considering the
parties' arguments, submissions, and applicable law the
Court grants Transocean's attorney's fees and costs
in the amounts specified by this Order.
Contract between Eni and Transocean provided for
"reasonable attorney's fees and costs" for the
prevailing party in an action brought to enforce obligations
under the Contract. Contract, Def. Ex. 1, at § 1302.
Courts within the Fifth Circuit utilize the lodestar method
to calculate an award of attorney's fees. Forbush v.
J.C. Penney Co., 98 F.3d 817, 821 (5th Cir. 1996). The
lodestar is calculated by multiplying the reasonable number
of hours by the attorneys' reasonable hourly rates.
Id. There is a strong presumption that the lodestar
calculation is reasonable, and it should be modified only in
exceptional cases. Watkins v. Fordice, 7 F.3d 453,
458 (5th Cir. 1993) (citing City of Burlington v.
Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 562(1992)).
seeks a lodestar fee of $8, 137, 332. Doc. #127, Ex. 1-1; Doc.
#130, Ex. 1 at 24-25. Transocean arrived at its lodestar fee
by multiplying 14, 859.10 hours worked by the hourly rates of
eight attorneys (and three paralegals) with different hourly
rates ranging from $360 to $800 (rates between $235 and $300
for paralegals). Id. In evaluating reasonable rates,
courts consider the attorney's regular rates as well as
the prevailing market rate, which is the rate
"prevailing in the community for similar services by
lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience and
reputation." Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 896
n.11 (1984). Rates ranging from $360 to $800 per hour are
reasonable in comparison to the prevailing market rates in
Houston, Texas, for comparable law firms and attorneys. Doc.
#127, Ex. 1-C-E; Doc. #130, Ex. 1 at 20-21. Therefore, the
Court finds that the hourly rates billed by Transocean's
attorneys are reasonable. Based upon the evidence submitted,
the Court also finds that the hours Transocean's
attorneys expended throughout the duration of this litigation
are reasonable. See Doc. #127, Ex. 1-I; Doc. #130,
Ex. 1 at 12-18. Additionally, Eni acknowledges that it would
have stipulated to an award of $8, 137, 332 as reasonable had
Transocean not asked for a multiplier on top of the lodestar
amount. Doc. #134 at 12.
addition to the lodestar, Transocean asks the Court to apply
a three times multiplier amounting to a total fee recovery of
$24, 411, 996. Doc. #127 at 3. Transocean argues it is
entitled to a multiplier because: 1) the degree of success
that Transocean obtained; 2) the nature and complexity of the
case; 3) the skill required to litigate the case; 4) mid-way
through the dispute Transocean switched to a contingency fee;
and 5) there was a delay between when work was done by
Transocean's attorneys and the entry of a fee award.
the lodestar is presumed to be the reasonable fee, the Court
in its discretion may adjust the attorney's fees upward
or downward under the factors set out in Johnson v.
Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th
Cir. 1974). Four of the Johnson factors are
presumably included in the lodestar calculation: the novelty
and complexity of the issues, the special skill and
experience of counsel, quality of representation, and the
results obtained from the litigation. Shipes v. Trinity
Indus., 987 F.2d 311, 320 (5th Cir. 1993). Although
upward adjustments to the lodestar figure based on these
factors are permissible, such modifications are proper only
in certain rare and exceptional cases supported by specific
evidence on the record and detailed findings. Id.
The Court acknowledges this case was complex, and it required
skilled attorneys to litigate it. However, these factors are
already subsumed in the lodestar.
Court also acknowledges that Transocean achieved a high
degree of success by defeating the claims asserted by Eni and
prevailing on all of its counterclaims. However, the
contractual obligation of Eni to Transocean was to reimburse
"reasonable attorney's fees." Contract, Def.
Ex. 1, at § 1302. The lodestar is presumed to be the
reasonable fee, and "increasing the fee award based on
the eighth Johnson factor (the amount involved and
the results obtained) is only proper when the applicant shows
that it is customary in the area for attorneys to charge an
additional fee above their hourly rates for an exceptional
result. . .". In re Enron Corp., 586 F.Supp.2d
732, 757 (S.D. Tex. Sept. 8, 2008) (citing Shipes,
987 F.2d at 322). Transocean acknowledges that it could not
point the Court to a similar case in the maritime contract
context wherein a multiplier was awarded. Doc. #171 at
the Court recognizes that Transocean's fee agreement
changed midway through the case, on February 25, 2016, to a
contingency-style "Alternative Fee Arrangement."
Doc. #127, Ex. 1-H. The Supreme Court has noted that the
purpose of an enhancement to the lodestar for a contingency
fee is to account for the "risk of loss in a particular
case (and, therefore, the attorney's contingent
risk)." City of Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S.
557, 562 (1992). Transocean's attorneys did not take this
case on a pure contingency basis whereby they risked not
being paid, nor was the "Alternative Fee
Arrangement" for the duration of the representation.
See Doc. #127, Ex. 1-H. Therefore, the Court does
not find that the Johnson factor of "whether
the fee is fixed or contingent" alone is compelling
enough to apply a multiplier in this case.
Transocean argues that a fee enhancement is justified because
of a delay between when work was done in this case and the
payment of attorney's fees. A delay enhancement is
reserved for "extraordinary circumstances in which an
attorney's performance involves exceptional delay in
payment of fees." Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel.
Winn, 559 U.S. 542, 556 (2010). Under Transocean's
agreements with its attorneys, payments of attorney's
fees were made within thirty to sixty days after an invoice
was sent to Transocean unless the amount of the invoice was
disputed. See Doc. #127, Ex. 1-G at 5; Ex. 1-H at 2.
There is no evidence before the Court that Transocean did not
pay the invoices billed by its attorneys during the
litigation. Therefore, the Court does not find that there was
an exceptional delay in payment of fees to Transocean's
attorneys, and therefore, a delay enhancement is not
appropriate in this case.
the factors upon which the Court would consider awarding a
multiplier are already subsumed in the lodestar amount,
Transocean has not met its burden to have the lodestar
increased. The Court finds that the reasonable attorney's
fees anticipated by the Contract to be reimbursed to
Transocean by Eni is the lodestar amount of $8, 137, 332.
addition to attorney's fees, the Contract also allowed
for the prevailing party to be awarded costs. Contract, Def.
Ex. 1, at § 1302. The Contract language does not limit
Transocean's recovery only to the taxable costs properly
awarded by statue to the prevailing party in a lawsuit. 19
U.S.C. § 1920. If the Court were to limit the costs only
to those awarded by statute, it would render meaningless this
provision of the Contract for the prevailing party to be
reimbursed its costs. Therefore, Transocean's $1, 860,
982.07 in non-taxable costs is recoverable under the Contract
in addition to its $133, 583.20 taxable costs awarded by