Home Depot USA Inc. v. Cytec Industries Inc.
A court is not required to reduce attorneys' fees on the basis that a plaintiff did not prevail on every count. Allegedly, the defendant, Cytec Industries Inc., agreed to sell the plaintiff, Home Depot, 19 acres of property in Stamford, Conn. for $19 million. Each party claimed that the other was responsible for the failure to obtain zoning approvals to build a new Home Depot store. Previously, a court found that Home Depot proved breach of contract and ordered the defendant to return $570,000 for Home Depot's deposit, plus interest and attorneys' fees. Home Depot did not prevail on specific performance of the contract, a claim that Home Depot withdrew prior to trial, or loss of profits. Attorney Charles Ray of the law firm of McCarter & English filed an affidavit of attorneys' fees. The defendant stipulated that hourly rates that ranged between $125 and $415 per hour were reasonable. The defendant objected to attorneys' fees for Home Depot's out-of-state law firm, Hartman, Simons & Wood, on the basis that McCarter & English did not require assistance. The court found that the subject real estate transaction was sophisticated. The Atlanta firm, Hartman, Simons, helped to comply with discovery requests. It also evaluated the defendant's settlement proposal. The court denied the defendant's objection to attorneys' fees for Hartman, Simons. The defendant also argued that McCarter & English billed an excessive amount and that results were modest in comparison to the amount requested. A prevailing party is defined as a party in whose favor judgment is awarded, regardless of the amount. The court denied the request to reduce attorneys' fees on the basis that Home Depot did not prevail on every count. The McCarter & English fee agreement was reasonable. The court rejected the defendant's claim it was inappropriate for two lawyers to litigate on behalf of Home Depot. Although Home Depot paid the attorneys' fees, the defendant established that excessive hours were billed in some instances. The court reduced the attorneys' fees request 10 percent and awarded $239,082 to McCarter & English and $5,462 to Hartman, Simons, plus costs of $4,523.