Cha-Ching! Lawson Dinged for More Money Due to Spirit’s Application Expenses: eDiscovery Case Law

What better diversion from what’s happening in Washington right now than another Lawson vs. Spirit Aerosystems case ruling?  Right?

In Lawson v. Spirit Aerosystems, Inc., No. 18-1100-EFM-ADM (D. Kan. Dec. 28, 2020), Kansas Magistrate Judge Angel D. Mitchell, having previously granted the defendant’s motion to shift the expenses it incurred in connection with a technology-assisted review (“TAR”) of approximately 322,000 documents to the plaintiff and subsequently awarding the defendant $754,029.46 in TAR expenses (which was later affirmed by the District Court), awarded the defendant an additional $94,407.25 in expenses incurred in connection with its July 10 original fee application and its renewed application.

Case Background

The previous history of the case (up to the motion previously granted by Judge Mitchell for cost shifting) is briefly synopsized here and details regarding the order granting in part and denying in part the defendant’s Application for Technology Assisted Review (TAR) Expenses (where the defendant was awarded $754,029.46 in TAR expenses out of $791,700.21 sought) can be found here.  In that ruling, Judge Mitchell stated that she “provisionally grants Spirit’s application with respect to its expenses incurred in submitting the current fee application. This includes time spent reviewing and redacting invoices, corresponding and conferring with Lawson as required by the court’s June 18 order, and otherwise preparing the current application and reply brief; it may also include Spirit’s expenses incurred in preparing the renewed application. To that end, the court directs Spirit to prepare a renewed application for these expenses not to exceed 3 pages. The renewed application must contain the information needed for the court to conduct a lodestar analysis—namely, a chart that summarizes the numbers of hours billed by each timekeeper and their respective rates—and attach the supporting time entries. For the most recent expenses (e.g., those incurred in preparing the renewed application), Spirit does not need to submit time entries but may instead rely on attorney declaration(s) explaining number of hours and hourly rates for each timekeeper.”

When the parties could not reach agreement regarding the amount, the defendant filed the current Renewed Application.  In the Renewed Application, the defendant sought a total of $96,032.25 to be paid in attorneys’ fees to two different law firms for both the original and renewed applications.  The plaintiff opposed the defendant’s Renewed Application, arguing that many of the defendant’s expenses were “excessive, duplicative, and should be reduced by at least 50%” and also contended that he “should not be responsible for any expenses Spirit incurred after it filed the Original Application on July 10.”

Judge’s Ruling

With regard to the plaintiff’s objection that he should not be responsible for any expenses incurred by the defendant after it filed the Original Application on July 10, Judge Mitchell stated that the “expenses [for preparing a fee application] are generally compensable” and that it was “therefore appropriate to allocate expenses incurred in connection with Spirit’s reply in support of the Original Application to Lawson.”

With regard to the plaintiff’s objection that “pay[ing] Spirit’s fees incurred in the preparation of its attorney bills is unwarranted because Lawson’s decisions to pursue TAR and to oppose Spirit’s requests for cost shifting were substantially justified” under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a)(5), Judge Mitchell noted that she already determined that Lawson’s position was not substantially justified “for all the reasons set forth in the June 18 order… Furthermore, the district judge overruled Lawson’s objections to the June 18 order, finding no error in the conclusion that ‘Lawson’s persistence in pursuing the costly, ineffective TAR was disproportional to the needs of the case.’”

With regard to the plaintiff’s objection that the defendant’s request for Renewed Application expenses should be denied because of the defendant’s lack of supporting documentation, Judge Mitchell stated: “Spirit submitted declarations under penalty of perjury that describe the tasks relating to the Renewed Application, identify the timekeepers who performed the work, and list those timekeepers’ hours and rates in accordance with the court’s prior order…This documentation provides sufficient information to evaluate the reasonableness of Spirit’s requested fees. Therefore, Lawson’s objection concerning the lack of documentation is overruled.”

After reviewing the requested expenses and approving most of them, Judge Mitchell found “that Spirit reasonably incurred $94,407.25 in attorneys’ fees in connection with the Original and Renewed Applications. Accordingly, the court allocates these expenses to Lawson.”

So, what do you think?  Was this insult to injury or was it an appropriate award amount?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

For more on this latest decision, check our Kelly Twigger’s ACEDS #caseoftheweek podcast here.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant, an Affinity partner of eDiscovery Today.

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