Monday, October 10, 2016
Best v Tamplin, 2016 WL 5402717 (W.D. Penn., 2016)[Bermuda] [Attorney’s Fees & Costs]
In Best v Tamplin, 2016 WL 5402717 (W.D. Penn., 2016) Petitioner Joseph E. Best, Jr. sought attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to 22 U.S.C. § 9001 (formerly 42 U.S.C. § 11601) and 22 U.S.C. § 9007(b)(3) (formerly 42 U.S.C. § 11607(b)(3)) after his petition for an order compelling the return of his minor children to Bermuda was granted. Respondent challenged the motion on the grounds that the custody arrangement governing the children and her removal of them to Erie was still under review by the Supreme Court of Bermuda and therefore an order in favor of petitioner could prove to be prejudicial to her rights in that forum. Consequently, from her perspective awarding attorney’s fees and costs ‘would be clearly inappropriate‘ under 22 U.S.C. § 9007(b)(3). The district court held that this argument had no application to the motion and the court already granted petitioner relief under the Hague Convention. Therefore, respondent failed to show it ‘would be clearly inappropriate‘ to award necessary fees and expenses.
The district court held that Respondent’s violation of the statute virtually triggers an award of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs under 22 U.S.C. § 9007(b)(3), unless respondent establishes that they ‘would be clearly inappropriate.‘ The lodestar approach is the appropriate method for this court to use in determining the amount of reasonable attorney’s fees that should be awarded to the prevailing party. Distler v. Dislter, 26 F. Supp.2d 723, 727 (D.N.J. 1998). Petitioner’s attorney sought $199.72 per hour. The court found this hourly rate to be reasonable. She documented 102.5 hours, which when multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate of $199.72 produced a total of $20,471.30. Respondent failed to challenge petitioner’s request or provide specific reasons as to why an award of this amount would be unreasonable or ‘clearly inappropriate.‘ Accordingly, petitioner’s request for attorney’s fees was reasonable and was approved. Petitioner also sought reimbursement of $2,036.88 in airfare, hotel, and car rental costs. Under 22 U.S.C. § 9007(b)(3), petitioner is entitled to these costs as it was necessary for him (1) to fly to the United States, (2) stay 2 nights in order to attend the hearing, and (3) return with his children to Bermuda. Federal courts routinely have awarded transportation and lodging costs to attend court hearings. See, e.g., Paulus v. Cordero, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20198 (M.D. Pa. 2013) (ordering reimbursement of $555.80 for airfare, $619.50 for bus fare, and $122.10 for lodging expenses); Distler, 26 F. Supp. 2d at 728 (awarding $2,422.00 for round trip flight and minor’s airfare for return to his habitual residence) (citing Freier v. Freier, 985 F. Supp. 710, 714 (E.D. Mich. 1997)). Petitioner provided sufficient documentation regarding these expenses and respondent failed to present a persuasive argument suggesting that an award of actual airfare, lodging, and transportation costs would be ‘clearly inappropriate.‘ Accordingly, she was ordered to pay $2,036.88 for his reasonable and necessary costs. Petitioner’s request for $1,407.26, which was charged to petitioner by counsel as actual out of pocket costs also was also approved as necessary costs. However, $250.00 requested for petitioner’s food and miscellaneous costs while in Erie on August 31, 2015, and September 1, 2015, was denied as he would have had to eat and incur similar sundry expenses even in the absence of the hearing.