May 13, 2022
A recent Law 360 story by Max Jaeger, “Sanctioned NFL Player Must Cover Atty Fees in Poaching Suit” reports that New York Giants wide receiver Kenny Golladay must cover more than $15,000 in attorney fees for his former agency after flouting a subpoena in litigation over whether he was poached by a rival, a Michigan judge said. In an order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Anthony P. Patti overruled Golladay and approved $14,929 in attorney fees to cover Honigman LLP's representation of the wideout's former agents at Clarity Sports International LLC. The judge refused to award fees for work by Dowd Bennett LLP, finding them "excessive and redundant" of work by Honigman's lawyers.
Clarity said it cost them a little over $20,000 to get Golladay to comply with a third-party subpoena for his deposition and document production. The agency says in a separate suit that sports memorabilia sellers helped non-party Creative Arts Agency steal Golladay from them. The wide receiver is not a party to that suit, but he ignored a 2020 subpoena, so Clarity sued to compel. The court hit him with sanctions for his "cavalier and reckless attitude" and ordered him to pay Clarity's legal bills for giving them the "run-around."
Golladay opposed most of the Honigman fees, arguing that partner Jeff Lamb's four hours at $580 per hour merely duplicated 19.75 hours of work that partner Andrew Clark did at $455 per hour. But the court disagreed. "Although much of attorney Lamb's relevant work appears to have involved review and conference with other attorneys, the court considers such collaboration between partners and associates typical and substantive, as opposed to duplicative and redundant," Judge Patti wrote.
That was "especially true" given Clark was out on leave for two months, the judge said. He also approved 11 hours that associate Nicholas Burandt contributed at $350 an hour. Some work was duplicative, however, and the judge denied $5,400 to Dowd Bennett for the roughly 7.5 hours each contributed by Dowd Bennett partner John D. Comerford and associate James B. Martin, who charged $420 an hour and $300 an hour respectively.
Golladay argued he shouldn't have to pay their fees because Clarity retained them on a contingency basis in the underlying tortious interference case against CAA that's separately playing out in Pennsylvania federal court. Because it is ongoing, Clarity had not "incurred" any fees yet, he argued. "The court, however, struggles to find the logic in this latter argument, as it would imply that parties (or non-parties) would be shielded from sanctions for poor behavior whenever the opposing side has a contingency-fee relationship," Judge Patti said in his order.
Instead, the judge said Dowd Bennett LLP's contribution amounted to sending emails to Honigman counsel and editing filings, and awarding fees would be excessive. "Although Respondent's behavior throughout this matter has undoubtedly been unacceptable and necessitated additional work by Petitioners, that work was frustrating more so than complicated," Judge Patti said.