Law School Case Brief
Hemlock Semiconductor Operations, LLC v. SolarWorld Indus. Sachsen GmbH - 702 F. App'x 408 (6th Cir. 2017)
Michigan law requires that attorney-fee awards be "reasonable," cautioning that reasonable fees may differ from the actual fee charged or the highest rate the attorney might otherwise command. The party seeking attorney fees has the burden of demonstrating that its request is reasonable and of providing evidence to support the fee amount.
In a breach-of-contract action, Hemlock Semiconductor Operations, LLC (Hemlock) obtained a district court judgment of nearly $800 million against SolarWorld Industries Sachsen GmbH (Sachsen). Pursuant to a provision in the parties' four long-term supply agreements (LTAs), Hemlock filed a motion to recover all of its attorney fees and costs. The district court granted Hemlock's motion in large part, awarding attorney fees of $2,815,212.22 and costs of $757,451.38. The first three LTAs provide that, "In the event of [Hemlock's] enforcement of any term or condition in the Agreement, Buyer shall be liable to [Hemlock] for all costs, including attorney fees, incurred by [Hemlock] in enforcing the agreement . . . ." LTA IV also provides that Sachsen will be responsible for Hemlock's attorney fees and costs in enforcing the agreement, but specifies that "reasonable" fees and costs are recoverable. In granting summary judgment, the district court ruled for Hemlock on every issue and awarded Hemlock the full amount of its requested damages. Hemlock then filed a motion for attorney fees and costs for the work of its New York-based primary counsel, Orrick, Herrington, & Sutcliffe LLP (Orrick), as well as two Michigan-based firms serving as local counsel. The district court granted Hemlock almost all of its requested fees and costs, excluding only fees and costs that Hemlock incurred in opposing a third party's motion to file an amicus brief.
Did the district court abused its discretion when it concluded that the Orrick’s hourly rates were reasonable?
The district court reasonably concluded that the statewide Michigan State Bar Economics of Law Practice Surveys data was a reasonable starting place for calculating fees. But because appellant Sachsen failed to cite an authority to indicate that Michigan law requires such a fee reduction, the district court reasonably explained that no such reduction was justified because there was no evidence that any of the hours were duplicative of work done for other cases. The district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to apply an "efficiency factor" in determining that Orrick billed a reasonable number of hours.
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