Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hayes v. Metropolitan Property & Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

August 31, 2017

ERIC D. HAYES, Plaintiff,
v.
METROPOLITAN PROPERTY & CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Laurie Smith Camp, Chief United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on three motions. Plaintiff, Eric D. Hayes has moved for attorney's fees and costs (ECF No. 137). Defendant Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company (Met) has moved under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 52(b) and 59(e) to alter or amend the Court's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Judgment (ECF No. 140), and to stay the judgment and taxation of costs (ECF No. 142). For the reasons discussed below, Met's motions will be denied, and Hayes's motion will be granted in part.

         Background

         Hayes's home was destroyed by fire. Met investigated the fire as Hayes's homeowner's insurance carrier, and ultimately decided to void the homeowner's insurance policy ab initio, after the expiration of the limitations period in the policy. Hayes's breach-of-contract claim was dismissed as untimely due to the twelve-month limitations period in the policy, and his bad-faith claim proceeded to trial before this Court, without a jury. The Court issued its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of law on June 12, 2017 (ECF No. 132). On the same day, the Court entered judgment for Hayes in the amount of $493, 455.00, plus attorney's fees (ECF No. 133). On June 21, 2017, Hayes moved for attorney's fees and costs (ECF No. 137). On July 5, 2017, Met moved to amend the Court's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Judgment (ECF No. 140), and to stay the judgment and taxation of costs (ECF No. 142). On July 13, 2017, the Clerk of the Court taxed costs against Met in the amount of $2, 115.44 (ECF No. 146.)

         STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         Motions to Alter or Amend

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(b) provides that “[o]n a party's motion filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment, the court may amend its findings-or make additional findings-and may amend the judgment accordingly. The motion may accompany a motion for a new trial under Rule 59.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(b). Rule 52(b)'s “purpose is to permit the correction of any manifest errors of law or fact that are discovered, upon reconsideration, by the trial court. Under the rule, the trial court is the first recourse for the correction of errors.” National Metal Finishing Co., Inc. v. BarclaysAmerican/Commerical, Inc., 899 F.2d 119, 123 (1st Cir. 1990).

         Rule 59(e) allows for motions to alter or amend judgments. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). The United States Supreme Court has stated that like Rule 52(b), Rule 59(e) “was adopted to make clear that the district court possesses the power to rectify its own mistakes in the period immediately following the entry of judgment.” White v. New Hampshire Dept. of Emp. Sec., 455 U.S. 445, 450, 102 S.Ct. 1162, 71 L.Ed.2d 325 (1982). Some courts distinguish motions under Rule 52(b) from motions under Rule 59(e) by the relief sought. See, e.g., Sherman v. Kasotakis, 314 F.Supp.2d 843, 877 (N.D. Iowa 2004) (stating when the crux of the party's motion “appears to revolve around the correctness, or completeness, of the judgment rather than a plea . . . to make additional findings . . .” the motion ought to be brought pursuant to Rule 59(e)) (citing Norman v. Arkansas Dept. of Educ., 79 F.3d 748, 750 (8th Cir. 1996) (additional citations omitted)). District courts have broad discretion in their determinations of whether to grant or deny Rule 59(e) motions. These motions “serve the limited function of correcting manifest errors of law or fact . . . .” Lowry ex rel. Crow v. Watson Chapel School Dist., 540 F.3d 752, 761 (8th Cir. 2008) (internal citation omitted).

         Attorney Fees

         “The starting point in determining attorney fees is the lodestar, which is calculated by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by the reasonable hourly rates.” Fish v. St. Cloud State Univ., 295 F.3d 849, 851 (8th Cir. 2002). “The district court should then take account of other considerations that may lead [it] to adjust the fee upward or downward, including the important factor of the results obtained.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983) (internal quotations omitted). “In considering how the ‘results obtained' should affect attorney's fees, courts are to consider two questions. First, did the plaintiff fail to prevail on claims that were unrelated to the claims on which he succeeded? Second, did the plaintiff achieve a level of success that makes the hours reasonably expended a satisfactory basis for making a fee award? Claims are related, and hence deserving of compensation, if they involve a common core of facts or are based on related legal theories.” Dindinger v. Allsteel, 853 F.3d 414, 429 (8th Cir. 2017), quoting Emery v. Hunt, 272 F.3d 1042, 1046 (8th Cir. 2001), and Hensley, 461 U.S. at 435 (internal quotations omitted).

         ”An award of attorney fees involves consideration of such factors as the nature of the case, the services performed and results obtained, the length of time required for preparation and presentation of the case, the customary charges of the bar, and general equities of the case.” ACI Worldwide Corp. v. Baldwin, Hackett & Meeks, Inc., 896 N.W.2d 156, 198 (Neb. 2017), citing Sitz v. Sitz, 275 Neb. 832, 749 N.W.2d 470 (2008).

         DISCUSSION

         Neb. Rev. Stat. § 44-359 allows a successful plaintiff to recover attorney's fees when the plaintiff “brings an action upon any type of insurance policy.” In the Court's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, the Court stated that “pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 44-359, and in accordance with the Nebraska Supreme Court's rationale for providing economic damages when an insurer is found to have acted in bad faith, as outlined in Ruwe, Hayes should be awarded reasonable attorney's fees.” (ECF No. 132 at 13-14, citing Ruwe v. Farmers Mut. United Ins. Co., Inc., 469 N.W.2d 129, 135 (Neb. 1991).)

         The Nebraska Supreme Court has not made an explicit determination as to whether a plaintiff is entitled to an award of attorney's fees if the plaintiff succeeds on a bad-faith claim against an insurer, but not on a breach-of-contract claim. In Rod Rehm, P.C. v. Tamarack Amer., the Nebraska Supreme Court held that “an insurance policy beneficiary who successfully sues his or her insurance company is entitled to a reasonable attorney fee . . . .” 623 N.W.2d 690, 700 (Neb. 2001). Nothing in the Nebraska Supreme Court's holding required the successful beneficiary to succeed in a breach-of-contract claim in order to recover attorney's fees. In Hemenway v. MFA LifeIns. Co., 318 N.W.2d 70, 76 (Neb. 1982), the Nebraska Supreme Court stated “the form of the action is not controlling.” This Court is mindful of the Eighth Circuit's analysis in Lienemann v. State Farm Mut. Auto Fire & Cas. Co., 540 F.2d 333 (8th Cir. 1976), finding the attorney fee provision in Neb. Rev. Stat. ยง 44-359 inapplicable in a tort-based action where ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.