United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
TROPICAL CHEESE INDUSTRIES, INC., a New Jersey Corporation, Plaintiff,
ALEJANDRO CASTILLO and AAA WHOLESALERS DISTRIBUTION, a Rhode Island limited liability company, jointly and severally, Defendants.
WILLIAM E. SMITH, Chief District Judge.
Tropical Cheese Industries, Inc. ("Plaintiff"),
filed this action on September 29, 2015 to enforce the terms
of a non-competition agreement it had with a former salesman,
Alejandro Castillo. (See Compl., ECF No. 1.) After numerous
attempts to serve Castillo at both his residence and place of
employment, Plaintiff sought and received leave to effectuate
alternative service on him. (See Pl.'s Mot. for Alt.
Service, ECF No. 6; 11/16/2015 Text Order granting Mot. for
Alt. Service.) Plaintiff effectuated this alternative service
on November 16, 2015 by leaving a copy of the Complaint and
Summons at Castillo's home and place of employment, as
well as mailing copies of the same to both addresses. (See
Summons Return, ECF Nos. 8 and 9.) When Castillo failed to
file an Answer or in any other way respond to the Complaint,
Plaintiff notified Castillo on December 15, 2016 of its
intent to file a Motion for Entry of Default. (LR Cv 55
Attorney Certification, ECF No. 10-2.) Receiving no response
from Castillo, Plaintiff filed its Motion for Entry of
Default on January 14, 2016 (ECF No. 10), which the Clerk
entered on February 10, 2016 (ECF No. 12).
before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Default
Judgment ("Motion") in which Plaintiff seeks an
order enforcing the terms of Castillo's non-compete
agreement and attorneys' fees. (ECF No.
15.) Despite again receiving advanced
notice of Plaintiff's intention to file the Motion,
Castillo has neither responded nor objected. (See LR Cv 55
Attorney Certification, ECF No. 15-3.)
a motion for entry of default judgment, the facts alleged in
the complaint are taken as true." Queally v. Estate of
Hoviss, C.A. No. 10-002-S, 2011 WL 6026593, at *1 (D.R.I.
Dec. 2, 2011) (citing Ortiz-Gonzalez v. Fonovisa,
277 F.3d 59, 62-63 (1st Cir. 2002)). Here, Plaintiff has
sufficiently alleged that it has a valid non-competition
agreement with Castillo and that Castillo violated the
agreement, along with the New Jersey Trade Secret Act, when
he began working for Plaintiff's competitor. (See Compl.,
ECF No. 1.) Consequently, default judgment is entered in
Plaintiff's favor and against Castillo. Castillo shall
abide by the terms of his non-compete agreement, to the
extent they are reasonable under New Jersey Law, including
the agreement's "Non-Competition,
Non-Solicitation" provision, and the agreement's
"Non-Disclosure, Non-Use" provision. (See Ex. A to
Compl., ECF No. 1-1.)
Attorneys' Fees and Costs
also seeks attorneys' fees. District courts in the First
Circuit typically use the lodestar method to determine what
fees to award prevailing parties. See Coutin v. Young &
Rubicam Puerto Rico, Inc., 124 F.3d 331, 337 (1st Cir.
1997). Under this approach, courts ascertain "the number
of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by
a reasonable hourly rate." Id . (quoting
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)).
But, this is only the starting point in constructing a fee
award; the method "is a tool, not a straitjacket."
Id . And "where multiple claims are
interrelated and a plaintiff has achieved only limited
success, awarding [it] the entire lodestar amount would
ordinarily be excessive." Andrade v. Jamestown Hous.
Auth., 82 F.3d 1179, 1191 (1st Cir. 1996).
the hourly rates and overall number of hours attributed to
various tasks outlined in Plaintiff's fee petition are
reasonable. Plaintiff's petition, however, falters in how
it apportions its fees and costs between the two defendants
in this case. As Plaintiff acknowledges, it only seeks those
fees and costs incurred prosecuting claims against Castillo
(see Ex. A to Mot. for Default J. ¶ 10, ECF No. 15-1; Ex. B
to Mot. for Default J. ¶ 6, ECF No. 15-2); it continues to
litigate its claims against Castillo's alleged employer,
AAA Wholesalers Distribution. Thus, a reduced fee award is
appropriate because "the relief... is limited in
comparison to the scope of the litigation as a whole."
Alfonso v. Aufiero, 66 F.Supp.2d 183, 200 (D. Mass.
1999) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 440).
fee petition, however, does not adequately account for
AAA's portion of Plaintiff's fees and costs. One of
Plaintiff's law firms, Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus
("NMM"), makes little attempt to distinguish
between tasks attributable to Castillo and AAA. For instance
NMM seeks to recover the full amount of fees incurred for
tasks common to both defendants, such as researching and
drafting the Complaint, even though these tasks apply to both
defendants. And, in a few instances, NMM seeks to recover
fees for tasks specifically attributable to AAA such as
"Online research re: AAA." Plaintiff's other
counsel, Pierce Atwood's ("PA") fee petition is
more reasonable. It does not seek fees for some of the tasks
relating only to AAA. For example, it does not seek fees for
things like conferring with AAA's counsel, and drafting
documents that pertain only to AAA. But, like NMM, PA does
not discount its general bills to account for tasks, such as
drafting and filing the Complaint, that apply equally to
Castillo and AAA. Consequently, the Court reduces
Plaintiff's fees and costs as follows:
â¢ Because NMM has not, at least as the Court can tell from
Plaintiff's submissions, reduced its fees to account for
AAA, the Court will reduce its request by 30%. Thus,
NMM's $14, 367.10 in fees and costs is reduced by $4,
310.13 to $10, 056.97;
â¢ PA has attempted to weed out at least some of its fees
attributable to AAA; thus, the Court will reduce its request
by 15%. PA's $10, 011.11 in fees and costs is reduced by
$1, 501.67 to $8, 509.44.
foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion
for Default Judgment. Defendant Castillo is required to abide
by the reasonable terms of his non-competition agreement,
which is attached to Plaintiff's Complaint as Exhibit A
(ECF No. 1-1). Further, Plaintiff shall be ...