United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, as trustee for Morgan Stanley Home Equity Loan Trust 2005-1 Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates, Series 2005-1, Plaintiff,
WILLIAM R. MANUELL, KAREN MANUEL and OAK CLIFF PLACE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION Defendants.
ORDER AWARDING FEES
ROSENTHAL CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Bank National Trust Company sued Karen Manuell, William R.
Manuell, and the Oak Cliff Place Homeowners Association, to
foreclose on a mortgage loan secured by real property and
improvements at 13502 Pecan Oak Drive, Houston, Texas 77065.
(Docket Entry No. 1). In May 2019, the court entered default
and default judgment against the Manuells, allowing Deutsche
Bank to foreclose on the property, because the Manuells did
not appear, answer, assert a defense, or give any indication
that they intended to do so. (Docket Entry No. 13). Deutsche
Bank has moved for attorney's fees in the amount of $4,
919. (Docket Entry No. 14).
award of attorney's fees is part of the substantive right
of suit” depending on “the law of the state whose
rules govern the substantive claims.” Mut.
Concepts, Inc. v. First Nat'l Bank of Omaha, 495
Fed.Appx. 514, 517 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting Kucel v.
Heller, 813 F.2d 67, 73 (5th Cir. 1987)). “Under
general Texas contract law, a party may recover
attorneys' fees when such recovery is provided by statute
or by contract.” Huston v. U.S. Bank Nat'l
Ass'n , 988 F.Supp.2d 732, 741 (S.D. Tex. 2013)
(citing In re Velazquez, 660 F.3d 893, 895-96 (5th
Cir. 2011)); Rodriguez v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 247
F.Supp.3d 840, 845 (S.D. Tex. 2017). “[H]ome equity
notes are nonrecourse as a matter of Texas law, but that rule
does not bar recovery of attorneys' fees and other
expenses.” Huston, 988 F.Supp.2d at 742;
see Johnson v. HomeBridge Fin. Servs., Inc., No.
H-16-748, 2017 WL 1403300, at *5 (S.D. Tex. Apr. 18, 2017)
(“Home equity loans are generally nonrecourse and
preclude contractual mortgagor liability.”). Deutsche
Bank may “recover its attorneys fees, if permitted
under the relevant contract, against the mortgaged property
after a foreclosure sale.” Huston, 988
F.Supp.2d at 741; Johnson, 2017 WL 1403300, at *5
(“[A] mortgagee may recover its attorneys' fees, if
the contract permits, against the mortgaged property from any
Deed of Trust gives Deutsche Bank a right to recover
reasonable attorney's fees. The relevant provision
9. Protection of Lender's Interest in the
Property and Rights Under [T]his Security
Instrument. If (a) Borrower fails to perform the
covenants and agreements contained in this Security
Agreement, (b) there is a legal proceeding that might
significantly affect Lender's interest in the Property
and/or rights under this Security Instrument . . ., or (c)
Borrower has abandoned the Property, then Lender may do and
pay for whatever is reasonable or appropriate to protect the
value of the Property. . . . Lender's actions can
include, but are not limited to: (a) paying any sums secured
by a lien which as priority over this Security Instrument;
(b) appearing in court; and (c) paying reasonable
attorneys' fees to protect its interest in the Property .
. . . Any amounts disbursed by Lender under this Section 9
shall become additional debt of Borrower secured by this
Security Instrument. These amounts shall bear interest at the
Note rate from the date of disbursement and shall be payable,
with such interest, upon notice from Lender to Borrower
(Docket Entry No. 1-1 at 15). Deutsche Bank has submitted
invoices and the attorney's affidavit testifying that the
“reasonable incurred attorneys' fees are $4919.00
in filing and prosecuting [Deutsche Bank's] interest . .
. as a result of the default under the loan.” (Docket
Entry No. 14-2 at 3, 10, 11). “The hourly rate charged
is $215.00 per hour for attorneys and $95.00 per hour for
paralegals and legal assistants.” (Id. at 3).
careful review of Deutsche Bank's invoices and affidavit,
the court agrees that the rates charged are reasonable
compared to attorneys with similar experience in a similar
market, and that the number of hours expended are reasonable
compared with the time and labor required for similar legal
services. See Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Pantalion,
No. H-18-4215, 2019 WL 2544077, at *4 (S.D. Tex.
June 20, 2019); In re Nat'l Lloyds Ins. Co., 532
S.W.3d 794, 809 (Tex. 2017) (listing factors relevant to
reasonableness, including “the time and labor required,
” the “ability of the lawyer or lawyers, ”
and “the fee customarily charged in the locality of
similar legal services”); Sullivan v. Abraham,
488 S.W.3d 294, 299 (Tex. 2016) (“A reasonable
attorney's fee is one that is not excessive or extreme,
but rather moderate or fair.” (quotation omitted)).
Bank may recover $4, 919 in reasonable attorney's fees
“as part of the note balance that may be satisfied
through a foreclosure sale of the property.”
Huston, 988 F.Supp.2d at 742; Billiter v. Cent.