In a decision that rejects a recent trend of district courts’ willingness to award attorneys’ fees since the Supreme Court’s 2014 Octane Fitness decision, the Federal Circuit has held that a district court judge did not properly justify an enhanced award of attorneys’ fees. After granting a Rule 12(c) motion early in the case, the district court found that the lodestar amount of attorneys’ fees was uncharacteristically low because of the court’s expeditious treatment of the case, and therefore was not substantial enough to properly deter the plaintiff’s future predatory conduct. Under this reasoning, the district court doubled the lodestar to deter the plaintiff’s conduct.
On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed that the district court’s finding that the case was exceptional. When it came to the amount of the award, however, the Federal Circuit found that there was not proper justification for enhancement. Specifically the Federal Circuit stated that “[a]lthough deterrence may be a consideration when determining whether to award attorney fees, it is not an appropriate consideration in determining the amount of a reasonable attorney fee.” (emphasis in original). The Federal Circuit remanded the case for a proper determination of the amount of attorneys’ fees, noting that such determination should not include the expedited schedule of the district court or any deterrence purpose.
Lumen View Technology LLC v. Findthebest.com Inc., No. 15-1275 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 22, 2016).