Request For Award Of Attorneys’ Fees for Entire Case As A Result of Spoliation Deemed Improper

4 Feb 2022

In EMUVEUYAN v. STEVE EWING; GENEVA ROCK PRODUCTS INC., and CLYDE COMPANIES, INC., Case No. 2:19-cv-00616-HCN-DAO (D. Utah Jan. 5, 2022) before the Court was Defendant’s motion disputing Plaintiff’s requested attorneys’ fees.

In a prior order, Plaintiff was awarded attorneys’ fees incurred when he brought a motion for sanctions arising from Defendant’s spoliation of evidence and was ordered to submit a declaration to Defendant reflecting reasonable attorneys fees incurred in connection with the motion.  Defendant objected to Plaintiff’s declaration, arguing that Plaintiff sought fees and costs for the entire case, not just those incurred in connection with the motion for sanctions. Plaintiff countered that he was entitled to the totality of attorneys’ fees for the entire case because he would not have brought the suit had it not been for Defendant’s spoliation.

In its analysis, the Court noted that Plaintiff’s argument that he was entitled to a substantially greater fee award than what the Court ordered for the sanctions motion was flawed and lacked support in that a substantially greater fee would amount to a post hoc, de facto amendment of the Courts’ prior order.

The Court noted that as part of the original sanctions order, the Court undertook a three-prong approach in its decision, including awarding evidentiary and trial sanctions, balancing the harm caused by the spoliation, and curing the damage in multiple ways. Awarding more attorney fees now would alter the balance created.

Moreover, in his original motion for sanctions, Plaintiff asked the Court for the totality of the fees and costs incurred to that point in the litigation, but that was already rejected by the Court. Neither party objected to the Court’s order or findings and to request a greater fee award now than was authorized would be improper.

Plaintiff cited Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company v. Haeger, 137 S. Ct. 1178, U.S. (2017), for the proposition that “the Supreme Court observed that ‘[i]n exceptional cases, the but-for standard even permits a trial court to shift all of a party’s fees.’” Id. at 1187. Plaintiff argued that Goodyear was analogous because there was “exceptional . . . discovery abuse” present in his case.

But the Court noted that it had already considered the extent of the discovery abuse when it granted the original fee award and other sanctions and that it would be improper to now consider whether Plaintiff had established “but for” the spoliation of evidence he would not have brought the suit, particularly given that Plaintiff did not make that argument at the time of the original motion for sanctions.

Accordingly, Defendant’s motion for Plaintiff to resubmit a declaration reflecting attorney fees incurred in connection with the motion for spoliation was granted and Plaintiff ordered to submit a declaration to Defendant reflecting the reasonable amount of attorneys fees incurred in connection with his prior spoliation motion.