United States District Court, D. Nebraska
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
SMITH CAMP SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Motion for Attorney Fees,
ECF No. 114, filed by Defendants Alegent Health Immanuel
Medical Center, Nebraska Heart Institute, Rebecca Rundlett,
and Bodo Treu; and the Motion for Attorney Fees, ECF No. 116,
filed by Defendants Jacqueline Deluca, Mark Laughlin, and The
Alliance Group Inc. For the reasons stated below, the Motions
will be granted, in part.
Court incorporates the discussion in its prior Memorandum and
Order, ECF No. 112, by reference, and provides the following
December 31, 2018, the Court summarily dismissed this action
with prejudice because it is based on the same facts as
Onuachi's prior action, Onuachi v. Master Builders,
Inc., 4:17CV3114, 2018 WL 922135 (D. Neb. Feb. 15,
2018), which was also dismissed with prejudice and affirmed
by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Mem. and Order, ECF
No. 112. When the Court dismissed that prior action, it noted
that Onuachi's “work-injury claims [ ] have been
dismissed three times by this Court” and cautioned him
that further filings would result in an injunction and an
award of attorney fees. Accordingly, the December 31, 2018,
Memorandum and Order, enjoined Onuachi from filing further
lawsuits based on the same facts and provided that the
Defendants may submit motions for attorney fees on or before
January 15, 2019. Id. On January 25, 2019, Onuachi
filed a Notice of Appeal, ECF No. 119.
initial matter, Onuachi's Notice of Appeal does not
prevent this Court from ruling on the pending motions for
attorney fees. Obin v. Dist. No. 9 of the Int'l.
Assoc. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, 651 F.2d
574, 583 (8th Cir. 1980).
Court has previously held that attorney fees may be awarded
against a pro se litigant under 28 U.S.C. § 1927,
Wallace v. Kelley, No. 4:06CV3214, 2007 WL 2248105,
at *3 (D. Neb. Aug. 1, 2007), and it is established that
federal district courts may also award attorney fees against
a party under its inherent power when that party has
“acted in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for
oppressive reasons[, ]” United States v.
Gonzalez-Lopez, 403 F.3d 558, 564 (8th Cir. 2005)
(quoting Kelly v. Golden, 352 F.3d 344, 352 (8th
has repeatedly attempted to sue the same defendants based on
the same facts in this Court and other courts.
Onuachi, 2018 WL 922135, at *4; see also
Mem. and Order, ECF No. 112. Before he brought this action,
the Court cautioned him that if he continued to bring
lawsuits based on the same facts, attorney fees would be
assessed against him. Id. Onuachi disregarded that
warning, and, by bringing this action, he has acted in bad
faith, vexatiously, and wantonly. The moving parties are,
therefore, entitled to a reasonable amount of attorney fees
incurred in connection with this case.
calculate a reasonable attorney's fee, “courts
typically begin by using the lodestar method[, ]” which
“multiplies the number of hours reasonably expended by
the reasonable hourly rates.” Brewington v.
Keener, 902 F.3d 796, 805 (8th Cir. 2018) (quoting
Hanig v. Lee, 415 F.3d 822, 825 (8th Cir. 2005)).
“When determining reasonable hourly rates, district
courts may rely on their own experience and knowledge of
prevailing market rates.” Id. “There is
no precise rule or formula for making these
determinations.” Id. (quoting Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 436-37 (1983)). A district
court “may attempt to identify specific hours that
should be eliminated, or it may simply reduce the award to
account for . . . limited success.” Id.
Recently, the Court explained that it “has generally
approved rates between $225-325/hour for partners with less
than 25 years of experience and rates of $175-200 for work
done by associates.” Petrone v. Werner Ents.,
Inc., 8:11CV401, 8:12CV307, 2018 WL 816250, at *6 (D.
Neb. Feb. 9, 2018); see also J&J Sports
Prods., Inc. v. Palomares, 8:18CV185, 2018 WL 6250607,
at *1 (D. Neb. Nov. 29, 2018).
Motion at ECF No. 114 requests $7, 357.85 for 27.3 hours of
work done by a partner with 30 years of experience at
$200/hour and 8.1 hours of work done by an associate with an
unknown amount of experience at $170/hour. This Motion
included an attached affidavit which detailed and itemized
the amount of time spent on particular tasks by each billing
Motion at ECF No. 116 requests $11, 501.00 for 1.8 hours of
work done by a partner with an unknown amount of experience
at $345/hour; 50.1 hours of work done by “Various [ ]
Associate Attorneys” with unknown amounts of experience
at $215/hour; and 0.8 hours of work done by a paralegal at
$155/hour. This Motion stated the total number of hours spent
on this case and the rates charged but did not itemize or
otherwise detail the amount of time spent on any particular
task, which makes it difficult for the Court to evaluate the
reasonableness of the requested fees.
Court summarily dismissed this action because it was clear
from the face of Onuachi's Complaint, ECF No. 1, and his
Amended Complaint, ECF No. 8, that his claims were frivolous
and based on the same facts as his previous lawsuits.
Further, the Court had already indicated, in Onuachi's
previous action, that it would not entertain the merits of
such an action. Onuachi, 2018 WL 922135, at *4
(stating “any further filings in the Court touching on
the subject matter of this action likely will result in the
imposition of a permanent injunction against further filings
and an award of attorney's fees”). Thus, while the
Court recognizes the vexatious nature of this action,
achieving its dismissal required little analysis, research,
briefing, or review of documents and evidence. Further, the
reason for the disparity in the amounts requested by the
parties is not apparent and difficult to reconcile.
Court finds that 15 hours at a rate of $175/hour is
reasonable, with respect to each pending motion, and will
award the ...