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Nutramax Laboratories Inc v. Manna Pro Products, LLC

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

December 21, 2017

Nutramax Laboratories, Inc., and Nutramax Laboratories Veterinary Sciences, Inc., Plaintiffs,
v.
Manna Pro Products, LLC, Nutri-Vet Wellness, LLC, and 21st Century Animal HealthCare, LLC, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         Plaintiffs Nutramax Laboratories, Inc., and Nutramax Laboratories Veterinary Services, Inc., (together, “Nutramax” or “Plaintiffs”) filed this action against Defendants Manna Pro Products, LLC, Nutri-Vet Wellness, LLC, and 21st Century Animal HealthCare, LLC (“21st Century”) (collectively “Defendants”) “alleging that Defendants' ‘Petnology Essentials' product line of health supplements for pets infringed on Nutramax's trademark by employing copycat packaging and using improper comparisons to Nutramax's Cosequin product line and that these actions violated South Carolina law on unfair competition.” (ECF No. 44 (referencing ECF No. 8).)

         This matter is before the court on Plaintiffs' Second Renewed Petition for Attorneys' Fees seeking “$55, 506 to reimburse [Nutramax for] its reasonable, out-of-pocket attorneys' fees incurred” in connection with the Contempt Proceeding[1] brought against 21st Century. (ECF No. 66 at 1.) 21st Century objects to the Petition “because Plaintiffs have, yet again, failed to sufficiently support this amount as being ‘reasonable' in view of the framework for determining reasonable attorneys' fees and when considering the facts before the Court.” (ECF No. 67 at 1.) For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS Nutramax's Second Renewed Petition for Attorneys' Fees.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND OF THIS MOTION

         In Orders entered on April 17, 2017 (the “April Order) and August 14, 2017 (the “August Order”), the court denied without prejudice Nutramax's two prior Petitions for Attorneys' Fees (ECF Nos. 50 & 60).[2] (See ECF No. 59 at 8; ECF No. 65 at 27.) In both Orders, the court found that Nutramax had failed to submit satisfactory specific evidence demonstrating the prevailing market rate in South Carolina for litigating civil contempt or similar proceedings. (Id.) On September 29, 2017, Nutramax filed the instant Second Renewed Petition for Attorneys' Fees, its third attempt at such relief. 21st Century filed Objections to the Second Renewed Petition for Fees on October 13, 2017, to which Nutramax filed a Reply in Support of Fees on October 20, 2017. (ECF Nos. 67 & 68.)

         II. JURISDICTION

         This court initially had jurisdiction over Nutramax's claims via 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as the claims arose under the Trademark and Copyright Laws of the United States. The court appropriately heard Nutramax's state law claims based on supplemental jurisdiction since they were “so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). In the parties' Settlement Order, the court “retain[ed] jurisdiction with respect to the implementation and enforcement of the terms of th[e] Stipulation and the Parties to th[e] Stipulation submit[ted] to the jurisdiction of the Court for those purposes.” (ECF No. 32 at 7 ¶ 11.)

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         “[C]ourts have inherent power to enforce compliance with their lawful orders through civil contempt.” Shillitani v. United States, 384 U.S. 364, 370 (1966) (citing United States v. United Mine Workers, 330 U.S. 258, 330-332 (1947)). “The appropriate remedy for civil contempt is within the court's broad discretion.” In re Gen. Motors Corp., 61 F.3d 256, 259 (4th Cir. 1995) (citing McComb v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 336 U.S. 187, 193-94 (1949)). “Remedies include ordering the contemnor to reimburse the complainant for losses sustained and for reasonable attorney's fees.” Id. (citing United States v. Trudell, 563 F.2d 889, 891 (8th Cir. 1977)).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. The Parties' Arguments

         In connection with its Contempt Proceeding against 21st Century, Nutramax seeks reimbursement for attorneys' fees in the amount of $55, 506.00 incurred as follows:

Attorney Name

Hours Billed

Hourly Rate

Total

Morgan Nickerson

55.3

$515.00

$28, 479.50

Jeffrey Patterson

24.9

$535.00

$13, 321.50

Chris Jaros

2.2

$475.00

$1, 045.00

M. Stanley

11.5

$425.00

$4, 887.50

E. Gianetta

16.3

$425.00

$6, 927.50

K. Taylor

1.1

$275.00

$302.50

Richard Farrier

0.7

$775.00

$542.50

Total

112.00

$55, 506.00

(ECF No. 50 at 6.) In support of its Second Renewed Motion for Attorneys' Fees, Nutramax submitted the following: (1) the Affidavit of Thad H. Westbrook (ECF No. 66-1), a Partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP's Columbia, South Carolina Office; the Affidavit of Morgan T. Nickerson (ECF No. 66-2 at 1-5), counsel of record in this case; and invoices from K&L Gates LLP (id. at 7-22), Nutramax's lawyers.

         In response to the court's observations in its April and August Orders, Nutramax submitted Westbrook's opinion as a South Carolina lawyer “familiar with the prevailing market rate for civil litigators practicing in South Carolina.” (Id. at 2 ¶ 4.) As a basis for his opinion, Westbrook relied on his seventeen years of legal practice in South Carolina in the areas of “business litigation, complex commercial litigation, consumer finance litigation, and class action defense.” (Id. ¶¶ 1 & 2.) Westbrook generally opined that “there are no lawyers who specialize in civil contempt ...


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