United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort
JAMES W. HACKNEY, Plaintiff,
ALLMED HEALTHCARE MANAGEMENT, INC., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
matter is before the Court on a Recommended Disposition filed
by Magistrate Judge Edward B. Atkins. [R. 58.] This Court
previously granted Defendant AllMed HealthCare Management,
Inc. (AllMed)'s Motion for Attorneys' Fees and
referred the matter to Judge Atkins to determine the amount
of fees and costs. [R. 53.] Magistrate Judge Atkins reviewed
the record and recommended Plaintiff James Hackney be
required to pay AllMed's attorneys' fees in the
amount of $81, 589.95 and expenses in the amount of $1,
520.35. [R. 58.] For the following reasons, the Court
ADOPTS the Recommendation.
Hackney brought a state claim that was completely preempted
by ERISA. [R. 14 at 5-6; R. 28.] This Court construed his
claim as an ERISA claim and dismissed the Complaint with
prejudice. [R. 28.] The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
affirmed. [R. 37.] Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1),
this Court then granted AllMed's motion requesting
attorneys' fees and costs incurred while defending Mr.
Hackney's claims. [R. 53.]
initially filed its Motion for Attorneys' Fees on May 12,
2016. [R. 30.] This motion was briefed, but the underlying
matter remained pending before the Sixth Circuit.
Accordingly, this Court denied AllMed's motion without
prejudice and directed them to re-file following the
resolution of Mr. Hackney's appeal. [R. 36.] Three days
after the Sixth Circuit issued its Mandate, AllMed refiled
its motion. [R. 39.] After briefing, the Court determined to
award attorneys' fees, but directed additional briefing
as to the amount owed by Mr. Hackney to AllMed. [R. 53.]
Magistrate Judge Atkins filed an Order stating he considered
the matter “fully briefed and ripe for decision”
unless the parties notified the Court otherwise within a
specified amount of time. [R. 54.] Mr. Hackney responded
stating, “Plaintiff hereby notifies the Court
‘otherwise.'” [R. 55 at 1.] AllMed was
ordered to respond [R. 56] and did so [R. 57]. Mr. Hackney
has repeatedly objected to any award for fees and or costs,
but until now, has raised no specific objections to the
amounts specified in AllMed's declarations.
initial estimate of attorneys' fees is the multiplication
of reasonable hours expended in a matter by a reasonable
hourly rate. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433
(1983). Judge Atkins reviewed AllMed's requests and
determined both the hours expended and the hourly rates to be
reasonable. [R. 58.] On October 13, 2017, prior to this
Court's award of fees and costs, AllMed submitted a total
fee request of $90, 655.50 and a total expense request of $1,
689.28. [R. 49 at 3.] Mr. Hackney has had ample opportunity
to file objections to this amount in the record, however, he
did not do so prior to March 7, 2018. In his Recommended
Disposition, Judge Atkins determined that the requested
amount resulted in an average hourly rate of $324, a
reasonable rate compared to other fees awarded by this Court
in ERISA cases at rates as high as $425 per hour. [R. 58 at
5-7.] Regardless, Judge Atkins found it appropriate to
mitigate any potential unnecessary fee and expense amounts by
reducing the award by ten percent, awarding $81, 589.95 in
fees and $1, 520.35 in costs, for a total of $83, 110.30.
Id. at 7.
case involving a request for attorneys' fees,
“‘[t]he primary concern . . . is that the fee
awarded be reasonable, ' that is, one that is adequately
compensatory to attract competent counsel yet which avoids
producing a windfall for lawyers.” Adcock-Ladd v.
Sec'y of Treasury, 227 F.3d 343, 349 (6th Cir.
2000). For this reason, attorneys seeking compensation must
“maintain billing time records that are sufficiently
detailed to enable courts to review the reasonableness of the
hours expended.” Wooldridge v. Marlene Indus.
Corp., 898 F.2d 1169, 1177 (6th Cir. 1990). The fee
applicant carries “the burden of providing for the
court's perusal a particularized billing record”
that supports the proposed amount. Perotti v.
Seiter, 935 F.2d 761, 764 (6th Cir. 1991). The
petitioner, “of course, is not required to record in
great detail how every minute of his [or her] time was
expended, ” but should “at least . . . identify
the general subject matter of [ ] time expenditures.”
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983).
evaluating these records, “[t]he trial court's
initial point of departure . . . should be the determination
of the fee applicant's ‘lodestar, ' which is
the proven number of hours reasonably expended on the case by
an attorney, multiplied by his court-ascertained reasonable
hourly rate.” Adcock-Ladd, 227 F.3d at 349.
After calculating this figure, “[t]he trial judge may
then, within limits, adjust the ‘lodestar' to
reflect relevant considerations peculiar to the subject
litigation.” Id. Although the district
court's “exercise of discretion” in
calculating a reasonable amount “is entitled to
substantial deference, ” the court must still
“provide a clear and concise explanation of its reasons
for the fee award.” Id. This review
“should state with some particularity which of the
claimed hours the court is rejecting, which it is accepting,
and why.” Smith v. Serv. Master Corp., 592
Fed.Appx. 363, 366 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting U.S.
Structures, Inc. v. J.P. Structures, Inc., 130 F.3d
1185, 1193 (6th Cir. 1997). And when a counterparty
“raises specific objections to a fee award, a district
court should state why it is rejecting them.”
Wooldridge, 898 F.2d at 1176.
has fourteen days after service to register any objections to
the recommended disposition or else waive his rights to
appeal. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In order to receive
de novo review by this Court, any objection to the
report and recommendation must be specific. Mira v.
Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986). A specific
objection “explain[s] and cite[s] specific portions of
the report which [counsel] deem[s] problematic.”
Robert v. Tesson, 507 F.3d 981, 994 (6th Cir. 2007)
(citation omitted). A general objection that fails to
identify specific factual or legal issues from the report and
recommendation, however, is not permitted since it duplicates
the Magistrate's efforts and wastes judicial economy.
Howard v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991).
though Mr. Hackney did not object to the claimed hours prior
to Judge Atkins's Recommended Disposition, he now files
timely objections to the award. [R. 59.] However, only a few
of these objections are adequately specific, and many of his
objections lack merit. Mr. Hackney begins by filing several
“Specific Objections to R&R, ” and
“General Issues and Additional Objections, ” all
of which fail to identify specific factual or legal issues
from the Report and Recommendation, instead objecting to an
award of any fees at all. The Court is not required
to conduct a de novo review on such generalized
objections. Robert v. Tesson, 507 F.3d 981, 994 (6th
Cir. 2007); Howard v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991).
Mr. Hackney identified four “Specific Objections to
R&R, ” in which he objects to any award of
attorneys' fees and costs based on his belief that this
Court should not have awarded fees and costs to AllMed at
all. First, “Mr. Hackney objects to any award
of attorneys' fees and costs.” [R. 59 at 5.] He
reiterates this in his third objection, claiming AllMed
failed to comply with Federal and Local Rules, thus the
Court's grant of fees and costs is improper. Id.
at 6. These are not objections to Judge Atkins's
Recommended Disposition, which merely addresses the amount of
award. These are objections to this Court's Order
granting AllMed fees and costs under 29 U.S.C. §
1132(g)(1). However, such objections are appropriately
addressed in a motion under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60, which Mr.
Hackney did not file. Mr. Hackney merely attempts to restate
his displeasure with the Court's previously ruling, and
therefore, the Court refuses to address this objection.
See Moore v. Prevo, 379 Fed.Appx. 425, 428 n.6 (6th
Cir. 2010); Murr v. United States, 200 F.3d 895, 902
n.1 (6th Cir. 2000).
Mr. Hackney claims he had no opportunity to respond to
AllMed's request. [R. 59 at 5, 6.] After the matter was
referred, Judge Atkins entered an Order stating, “This
Court shall consider the matter fully briefed and ripe for
decision, unless this Court hears from the parties otherwise
by or before Friday, December 8, 2017.” [R. 54.]
Indeed, Mr. Hackney submitted a filing on December 4, 2017,
asserting, “Plaintiff hereby notifies the Court
‘otherwise.'” [R. 55 at 1.] In this
notification, he claims he lacked adequate opportunity to
address AllMed's request for fees and costs, but then
failed to actually address this request or identify any
specific objections to AllMed's request. Id.
AllMed responded to this notice on December 6, 2017. [R. 57.]
Mr. Hackney did not file a reply, nor did Mr. Hackney submit
any supplemental filing to identify objections to
AllMed's request. Three months later, Judge Atkins ...