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Heavy Petroleum Partners, LLC v. Atkins

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

December 30, 2013

HEAVY PETROLEUM PARTNERS, LLC and CHEROKEE WELLS, LLC, Plaintiffs-Counter Defendants,
v.
PAUL ATKINS, an individual, and J.J.R. OF KANSAS LIMITED, Defendants– Counter-Claimants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ERIC F. MELGREN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Defendants entered into a contract with Plaintiffs intended to increase production on an oil lease owed by Defendants. Disputes arose regarding ownership of the lease and performance obligations under the contract. A complaint was initially filed in early 2009. The progress of the case thereafter is too complicated to review in this order and may be seen in the Court’s docket for any interested party. Suffice it to say that, among other matters, it has involved a preliminary injunction hearing, an order for partial summary judgment, a trial, an appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals which vacated and remanded, a denial of a motion for summary judgment, and another trial. At the end of all that, and as matters presently stand, Plaintiffs have prevailed.

Contained in the contractual agreements entered into by the parties, which were the principal subject matter of this protracted case, was a provision in the Joint Operating Agreement, attached to the Farmout Agreement, which provided in Article VII.D.5: “In the event any party is required to bring legal proceedings to enforce any financial obligation of a party hereunder, the prevailing party in such action shall be entitled to recover all court costs, costs of collection, and a reasonable attorney’s fee . . . .” Plaintiffs now move for an award of costs and fees in the amount of $280, 716.77.

Plaintiffs correctly note that, since jurisdiction over this matter was established on the basis of diversity, the “court applies state law with respect to the allowance of attorney fees.”[1] Under Kansas law, the amount of a fee award is within the sound discretion of the district court.[2] Kansas law views the district court as an expert on the issue of attorney fees.[3] In making its fee award determination, the court should consider the factors of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct (KRPC).[4] KRPC 1.5(a) provides:

(a) A lawyer’s fee shall be reasonable. The factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee include the following:
(1) the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
(2) the likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;
(3) the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
(4) the amount involved and the results obtained;
(5) the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
(6) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;
(7) the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services; and
(8) whether the fee is fixed or contingent.

Plaintiffs argue that particularly relevant to this matter are factors (1), the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill required to perform the legal services property; and (3), the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services. Plaintiffs note that not only did the case require considerable time and labor over the span of its lifetime, but that much of the ...


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