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Defaulting Borrower Ran Up Attorney’s Fees

A lender who won summary judgment ordering the borrower to pay $672,349 on a defaulted loan on investment property also is entitled to attorney’s fees of $99,094 and costs of $152,530; the Alexandria U.S. District Court denies the borrower’s request that a decision on fees be stayed pending appeal of the underlying case.

The loan documents signed by defendant provide an adequate contractual foundation for plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees and costs. The court is satisfied that the charged rates for work performed by eight attorneys and five paralegals from the firm Kutak Rock LLP, ranging from $130-$135 per hour for paralegals, to $270 for a top lawyer (discounted from the standard hourly fee of $400), were reasonable and consistent with rates that have been approved in similar cases before this court.

Defendant does not contest the number of hours billed, other than to assert that the “ridiculous amounts for unexplained activities contaminates the entire fee schedule,” and claimed fees are “fraudulent, unnecessary and duplicative.” Defendant claims the instant litigation was unnecessary because it was duplicative of Wells Fargo’s foreclosure action against her in D.C., which she believes also sought to confirm her delinquency on the promissory note.

Defendant’s position on plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees and costs is meritless. Indeed, the record reflects that defendant’s unreasonably litigious conduct has magnified the costs of litigation in this district and elsewhere by complicating what would otherwise have been a standard mortgage default case. Much of those litigation costs could have been avoided if defendant had behaved more reasonably. For example, she has not disputed the essential facts upon which the summary judgment award to plaintiff was based: that she executed the promissory note and deed of trust at issue and failed to make payments on the note since June 2008.

Defendant has taken every opportunity to oppose plaintiff’s efforts in this district to obtain a judgment for the unpaid balance of the promissory note. Defendant filed a counterclaim against plaintiff demanding $1 million damages on the basis of threadbare, single-sentence allegations of fraud, breach of contract and violations of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

The court finds the number of hours for which fees are sought is reasonable. Although it is concerning that fees are sought for over a dozen different attorneys and paralegals, the court accepts counsel’s assurance that the large number of timekeepers on this matter is not unusual given the fact that the matter dates back to 2007, and necessarily involved the efforts of multiple offices, as defendant resides in Virginia and the property is situated in the District of Columbia. Of the approximately 435 hours of work on the matter, the lion’s share of the hours were logged by two lawyers and a single paralegal.

Wells Fargo Bank N.A. v. Walls (Brinkema) No. 1:12cv664, March 4, 2013; USDC at Alexandria, Va. VLW 013-3-119, 19 pp.

VLW 013-3-119

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