August 17, 2017
A recent Law 360 story by Sophia Morris, “Judge Reinstates, Then Trims Fees Award to ‘Obstinate’ Attys,” reports that a Florida federal judge ruled that Yellow Pages Photos Inc. was entitled to attorneys’ fees and costs totaling more than $1.4 million in a copyright infringement suit following an Eleventh Circuit ruling in its favor, but revised the amount downward based on the conduct of the company's counsel at Shumaker Loop & Kendrick LLP.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Lazzara was ruling on the fee request following the remand of YPPI’s infringement suit against subcontractor Ziplocal and Yellow Pages Group LLC from the Eleventh Circuit. He found that while YPPI was the prevailing party and thus entitled to fees and costs, the amount must be reduced given its attorneys' conduct during the litigation.
“Obstructing the rhythm of a case by throwing up roadblocks of schedules too busy to calendar depositions, just for the sake of being disagreeable and obstinate, particularly in view of the multiple attorneys working on the case, does not bode well in finding the number of hours incurred was reasonable or acceptable in any sense of the word,” Judge Lazzara said.
Yellow Pages Photos filed the long-running infringement suit in 2012 over Ziplocal and Yellow Pages Group’s use of copyrighted photos. In 2014 a federal jury awarded YPPI $123,000 in damages. Yellow Pages Group appealed and YPPI cross-appealed, and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the judgment in 2015. YPPI then appealed the district court’s lowered fee award, and the Eleventh Circuit ruled in January that it was entitled to a revised fee determination given that it had requested $1.4 million in fees from Ziplocal and had been awarded $69,354.76.
Now, on remand after the January ruling, YPPI requested fees and costs for both the district court action and the appeal process. But Judge Lazzara said that given the stonewalling behavior of YPPI’s attorneys during the course of the district court proceedings he cannot award fees and costs in the amount requested.
The court found that the lodestar for the district court action should be $1,280,395.57, a 10 percent reduction “representative of the excessive, redundant and otherwise unnecessary number of hours expended,” Judge Lazzara said. He then reduced this lodestar by another 10 percent to $1,152,356.01, saying that YPPI had requested an excessive amount of damages in what was a simple case. The damages that were awarded were much lower than what was initially requested and the court found that the fee award should reflect this.
YPPI’s attorneys also made a fee request of $57,419.50 for work expended on the appeal. The court said that while the hourly rate was reasonable, the amount of hours expended on the appeal was not. Judge Lazzara said that the fee request was not detailed and it appeared that the attorneys were duplicating each other’s work. He therefore reduced the fee award to $50,794,50. “The time of 136 hours seems excessive and unnecessary for researching and briefing the issue of attorneys’ fees and nontaxable costs,” the court said.