United States District Court, D. Kansas
PIPELINE PRODUCTIONS, INC., et al., Plaintiffs and Counterclaim Defendants,
THE MADISON COMPANIES, LLC, et al., Defendants and Counterclaimants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
D. MITCHELL, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter comes before the court on Plaintiffs' Application
for Attorneys' Fees in Connection with Their Motion for
Sanctions (ECF No. 489). Plaintiffs Pipeline Productions,
Inc., Backwood Enterprises, LLC, OK Productions, Inc., and
Brett Mosiman (collectively “Pipeline”) seek $14,
595 in attorneys' fees resulting from the briefing on
their motion for sanctions (ECF No. 462). Defendants The
Madison Companies, LLC and Horsepower Entertainment, LLC
(collectively “Madison”) argue that counsel's
proposed hourly rates are excessive and that the time spent
briefing the motion for sanctions is excessive. Madison
proposes an award of $2, 420 to $2, 640. For the reasons
stated below, Pipeline's motion is granted. The court
orders Madison to pay Pipeline $14, 595 within ten business
case arises out of the parties' business dealings
relating to the Thunder on the Mountain country music
festival (“Thunder”) in 2015. According to the
Complaint, Pipeline is a well-known producer of live music
festivals, including Thunder. Madison is a venture capital
firm that was looking to invest in Pipeline's music
festival business. The parties engaged in business dealings
leading up to the then-planned Thunder festival in 2015.
Shortly before the festival was scheduled to occur, those
business dealings fell through. This lawsuit centers around
whether, when, and the extent to which the parties incurred
legally binding obligations to one another before the deal
fell through. Pipeline asserts claims for breach of contract,
breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and tortious interference.
As relevant to Pipeline's motion for sanctions, Pipeline
alleges that, after the Thunder deal fell apart, Madison
hired away key Pipeline partners, employees, and agents to
drive Pipeline out of business. One of these key individuals
was Nathan Prenger.
7, 2019, the court granted in part and denied in part
Pipeline's motion for sanctions. See Pipeline Prods.
v. Madison Cos., No. 15-4890-KHV, 2019 WL 2011377, at *1
(D. Kan. May 7, 2019). Madison failed to timely produce a
draft consulting agreement between Mr. Prenger and Horsepower
for work on the Kaaboo Del Mar music festival (“the
draft agreement”). The draft agreement was responsive
to Pipeline's Requests for Production (“RFP”)
Nos. 9 and 24. The court found that Madison failed to comply
with a court order compelling it to respond in full to RFP
No. 9, thus triggering sanctions under Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2).
The court also found that Madison's response to RFP No.
24 incorrectly stated that no responsive documents existed
and/or that Madison failed to timely supplement this response
once it learned this response was incorrect, thus triggering
sanctions under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(g)(3), Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(c)(1),
or both. The court declined to adopt the most severe
sanctions Pipeline proposed. However, the court stated that
it would allow Pipeline the opportunity to conduct additional
limited discovery to put Pipeline in the same position it
would have been in if Madison had complied with its discovery
obligations. Id. at *5. In addition, the court
stated that it would award Pipeline its reasonable
attorneys' fees and costs incurred in filing the motion.
motion now before the court is Pipeline's request for
attorneys' fees. Pipeline asks the court to award
attorneys' fees in the amount of $14, 595 for the time
three attorneys spent briefing the motion for sanctions. The
proposed fees and time expended are as follows: 14 hours of
time for attorney Jack McInnes at $550 per hour, 17.5 hours
of time for attorney Anthony Bonuchi at $500 per hour, and
3.7 hours of time for attorney Jennie Carter at $450 per
response, Madison argues Pipeline's requested hourly
rates and hours spent are excessive. Madison urges the court
to compute the number of hours reasonably expended by
multiplying 1.1 hours per page times the number of pages of
Pipeline's briefs on the motion for sanctions.
Pipeline's opening brief was five pages (ECF No. 462) and
its reply brief was three pages (ECF No. 474), for a total of
eight pages. Madison argues a reasonable rate is $275 to $300
per hour. Madison therefore proposes an award of $2, 420
($275 x 8 hours x 1.1 hours per page) to $2, 640 ($300 x 8
hours x 1.1 hours per page).
imposing attorneys' fees as a sanction under Rule 11, the
court considers four factors: “(1) the reasonableness
of the proposed fees, (2) the minimum amount required to
deter misconduct, (3) the offender's ability to pay, and
(4) ‘other factors' as the court sees fit, such as
the offending party's history, experience, and ability;
the severity of the violation; and the risk of chilling
zealous advocacy.” King v. Fleming, 899 F.3d
1140, 1155 (10th Cir. 2018) (citing White v. Gen. Motors
Corp., 908 F.2d 675, 684-85 (10th Cir. 1990)). Discovery
sanctions under Rules 26(g), 37(b)(2), and 37(c)(1) are all
analogous to Rule 11 sanctions insofar as these rules all use
the term “sanctions” and serve predominantly
punitive purposes. Ocelott v. Del. Flood Co., 76
F.3d 1538, 1554 (10th Cir. 1996) (noting similarities in
sanctions under Rule 11 and Rule 37(b) and concluding both
are punitive in nature); see also Farmer v. Banco Popular
of N. Am., 791 F.3d 1246, 1259 (10th Cir. 2015)
(applying the White factors when evaluating an award
of attorneys' fees as a punitive sanction pursuant to the
court's inherent authority). This court is therefore
guided by the factors set forth above and other case law
involving Rule 11 sanctions in deciding what sanctions are
appropriate. In re Byrd, Inc., 927 F.2d 1135, 1137
(10th Cir. 1991) (noting that courts often consider case law
interpreting Rule 11 sanctions when considering Rule 26(g)
sanctions); United States v. Perea, No.
08-20160-08-KHV, 2010 WL 11583172, at *5 n.13 (D. Kan. Jan.
7, 2010) (“While White involved sanctions
under Rule 11, its principles apply equally to sanctions
under other rules . . . .”).
determining what sanctions to impose, the court must consider
the purposes to be served by sanctions. White, 908
F.2d at 683. Rule 37 sanctions are imposed not merely to
reimburse the wronged party or to penalize the offending
party, but to deter others from engaging in similar conduct.
Nat'l Hockey League v. Metro. Hockey Club, Inc.,
427 U.S. 639, 643 (1976). In this case, the sanctions were
expressly meant to deter abusive conduct. Pipeline,
2019 WL 2011377 at *3. “The appropriate sanction should
be the least severe sanction adequate to deter and punish the
[wrongdoer].” White, 908 F.2d at
court therefore analyzes the four factors set forth above,
mindful of the purposes for imposing the sanctions at issue.
THE APPROPRIATE AMOUNT OF SANCTIONS
Reasonableness of the Proposed Award
court must independently analyze the reasonableness of the
requested attorneys' fees. King, 899 F.3d at
1155. “The proper procedure for determining a
reasonable attorneys' fee is to arrive at a lodestar
figure by multiplying the hours  counsel reasonably spent .
. . by a reasonable hourly rate.” Praseuth v.
Rubbermaid, Inc., 406 F.3d 1245, 1257 (10th Cir. 2005);
see, e.g., King, 899 F.3d at 1155;
accord Case v. Unified Sch. Dist. No. 233, 157 F.3d
1243, 1249 (10th Cir. 1998); see also, e.g.,
Kayhill v. Unified Gov't of Wyandotte Cty., 197
F.R.D. 454, 459 (D. Kan. 2000) (using the lodestar method to
calculate an award of attorneys' fees as a Rule 37
Hours Counsel Reasonably Expended
demonstrate reasonable time expended, the party seeking fees
must submit “meticulous, contemporaneous time records
that reveal all hours for which compensation is requested and
how those hours were allotted to specific tasks.”
Cadena v. Pacesetter Corp., 224 F.3d 1203, 1215
(10th Cir. 2000). The fee applicant should exercise billing
judgment with respect to the number of hours worked and
billed. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437
(1983). Billing judgment consists of winnowing hours actually
expended down to hours reasonably expended.
Praseuth, 406 F.3d at 1257.
states that three attorneys spent more than 30 hours on the
underlying motion for sanctions. Pipeline's counsel
exercised billing judgment to reduce and exclude certain
time, and Pipeline now seeks fees for 28.8 hours of work. The
court has reviewed the time records submitted and finds ...