United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
TIMOTHY D. DEGIUSTI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Hartford Life and
Accident Insurance Company's Motion for Attorney's
Fees [Doc. No. 18]. The motion is unopposed. Upon review, the
Court finds Hartford's motion should be granted as
is the carrier of a group policy (the “Policy”)
with basic life insurance benefits and other coverages not
relevant to this action for its policy holder- Siemens
Corporation (“Siemens”). David Lamare Atchison II
(“Mr. Atchinson”) was employed by Siemens and was
a participant in the Policy. Mr. Atchison died after being
shot by an unknown person(s) on January 8, 2017. His wife,
Keisha Jones-Atchison, submitted a claim for benefits payable
on Mr. Atchison's death. However, Mr. Atchison's
father, David Lamare Atchison, Sr., submitted a Preference
Beneficiary Affidavit (“PBA”). In the PBA, Mr.
Atchison, Sr. claimed entitlement to some or all of the
Policy's benefits, by way of the Policy's succession
date, there have been no arrests in connection with the death
of Mr. Atchison, although court filings in this case state
that Ms. Jones-Atchison has not been ruled out as a suspect
and the circumstances surrounding Mr. Atchison death remain
unclear. Citing the existence of competing claims
to the Policy proceeds, Hartford filed this interpleader
action under Rule 22, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On
October 19, 2017, the Court granted Hartford permission to
deposit the proceeds into the Clerk's registry and
discharge it from this action [Doc. No. 22]. Hartford now
seeks an attorney's fee award of $7, 511.50 from the
deposit as reimbursement of its fees incurred in bringing
prevailing principle in interpleader actions is that it is
within the discretion of the court to award the stakeholder
costs, including reasonable attorney's fees, out of the
deposited fund. Melton v. White, 848 F.Supp. 1513,
1514 (W.D. Okla. 1994). The Court normally taxes such fees in
favor of a stakeholder who: (1) is “disinterested,
” i.e., does not itself claim entitlement to any of the
interpleader fund; (2) does not appear to be culpable; (3)
concedes its liability in full; (4) deposits the disputed
fund in court; and (5) seeks discharge. Irwin v.
Principal Life Ins. Co., 404 F.Supp.2d 1271, 1278 (D.
Kan. 2005). It is undisputed that Hartford has met these
present action, there has been no allegation Hartford was
culpable in causing the controversy over the Policy proceeds.
Moreover, Hartford has disclaimed any interest, conceded
liability, deposited the proceeds and has been discharged
from this lawsuit. Accordingly, the Court finds Hartford is
entitled to an award of its reasonable attorney's fees to
be paid out of the deposited funds.
determining reasonable attorney's fees, the starting
point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee is the
“lodestar” figure - “the number of hours
reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a
reasonable hourly rate.” Anchondo v. Anderson,
Crenshaw & Assocs., LLC, 616 F.3d 1098, 1102 (10th
Cir. 2010) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S.
424 (1983)). If a party is seeking compensation for services
of a non-lawyer, such as a legal assistant, the Court must
scrutinize the reported hours and suggested rates in the same
manner. Case v. Unified School Dist. No. 233, 157
F.3d 1243, 1249 (10th Cir. 1998). The party seeking an award
of fees has the burden of proving both the number of hours
spent and reasonableness of the hourly rates. United
Phosphorus, Ltd. v. Midland Fumigant, Inc., 205
F.3d 1219, 1233 (10th Cir. 2000). Once this burden is met, a
claimant is entitled to the presumption this lodestar amount
reflects a “reasonable” fee. Robinson v. City
of Edmond, 160 F.3d 1275, 1281 (10th Cir. 1998).
the Court determines the lodestar, it must then determine
whether any upward or downward adjustments should be made to
the lodestar “to account for the particularities of the
suit and its outcome.” Zinna v. Congrove, 680
F.3d 1236, 1242 (10th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). In
assessing whether adjustments should be made, courts often
consider the twelve factors set out in Johnson v.
Georgia Highway Express, Inc., which include:
(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and
difficulty of the questions; (3) the skill required; (4)
preclusion of other employment; (5) the customary fee in the
community; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7)
time limitations imposed by the client; (8) the amount
involved and the results obtained; (9) the experience,
reputation and ability of the attorneys; (10) the
undesirability of the case; (11) the nature and relationship
of the professional relationship with the client; and (12)
awards in similar cases.
F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974). The Tenth Circuit has
approved these factors for determining reasonableness.
Brown v. Phillips Petro. Co., 838 F.2d 451 (10th
Cir. 1988). It is rare that all factors are met. Uselton
v. Commercial Lovelace Motor Freight, Inc., 9 F.3d 849,
853 (10th Cir. 1993). Although these factors may be
considered, the court does not need to consider “the
factors [ ] subsumed within the initial calculation of hours
reasonably expended at a reasonable hourly rate.”
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434 n. 9. The lodestar
calculation is meant to be the primary consideration when
awarding fees rather than the Johnson factors.
Anchondo, 616 F.3d at 1103 (citing Perdue v.
Kenny A ex rel. Winn, 559 U.S. 542 (2010)).
stated, Hartford seeks $7, 511.50 in attorney's fees. In
support, it submits time records showing its attorneys and
paralegals spent 33.2 hours working on this matter. Jodi
Dishman was the primary attorney in the matter, and she
submitted time records showing 10.2 hours spent litigating
the case. Andrew Morris, the other attorney in this matter,
submitted records showing he expended ...