Tyco Healthcare Group LP v. Ethicon Endo-Surgery Inc.
Although the 2nd Circuit generally requires local hourly rates for attorneys' fees, a court can approve national rates, if a reasonable client would pay national rates. On the eve of trial, defense counsel in a highly contested patent case informed the plaintiff that defense counsel had hired the plaintiff's former expert, who had been exposed to the plaintiff's trial strategy and attorney work product. The plaintiff moved to disqualify the defendant's attorneys and then requested attorneys' fees in connection with the motion to disqualify. The defendant objected to the hourly rates and the amount of legal services performed in connection with the motion to disqualify as overly excessive. The 2nd Circuit generally requires local rates for attorneys' fees, unless a reasonable client would pay national rates and would be unable to obtain comparable legal representation from a local law firm, pursuant to Simmons v. New York City Transit Authority, a 2009 decision of the 2nd Circuit. The District Court found that the high stakes, technical complexity and multiplicity of claims merited a national hourly rate. Although the plaintiff did not offer evidence of how much patent counsel in Connecticut would charge in a similar case, the court found that no other attorneys could have effectively handled the motion, which raised issues of significance, in the compressed time frame, on the eve of trial. The court approved hourly rates of $850 per hour for Drew Wintringham, a partner at DLA Piper, $725 per hour for Frank Ryan and $680 per hour for Mark Rueh. The court did not approve of the use of "block billing" that did not permit the court to discover the amount of time spent on a particular task. Certain of the associate attorneys' entries concerning teleconferences were overly vague. The court deducted time that associate attorneys spent "participating" in telephone conferences and listening to oral arguments. The court approved $19,125 for Attorney Wintringham, $80,112 for Attorney Ryan and $3,060 for Attorney Rueh. The court awarded Tyco Healthcare $145,677 in reasonable attorneys' fees and costs of $3,065, for a total award in the amount of $148,742.