ST. LOUIS — A federal judge has granted a request for attorney fees in a dispute among former business partners after previously siding with the defendants who claimed the plaintiff breached a covenant not to sue. 

The suit involving plaintiff Larry Rice against dairy product distributor Interfood Inc. and directors Jason Medcalf, Dirk Neerhoff, Nick Sharp and F.C.G.M. "Frank" van Stipdonk was filed in June 2013 on claims of breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and conspiracy. Rice claimed his minimum damages for defendants' alleged breach of an exclusivity agreement totaled $6.5 million.

U.S. District Judge Henry Edward Autrey of the Eastern District of Missouri granted summary judgment to the defendants in January 2015 on their claim for damages as a result of Rice's breach of covenant not to sue, and ordered them to submit a statement of attorneys' fees.

According to an opinion, memorandum and order Autrey signed June 22, the defendants' attorneys' fees were the damages incurred in having to bring a counterclaim against Rice.

While Autrey granted the defendants' request for attorneys' fees, he reduced the amount by 15 percent, noting that it appeared as if several attorneys performed some of the same tasks, such as with pleadings and strategy.

"The Court is of the opinion that double or triple billing for conferences between attorney and analyzing strategy by several attorneys exceeds the notion of 'reasonable,'" he wrote.

Defense attorneys had requested $92,349.10, and Autrey reduced the amount to $78,496.74.

Earlier in June, the defendants had moved to alter or amend Autrey's judgment, stating that through Feb. 6, 2015, they had incurred $79,540.80 in attorney fees on the breach of covenant not to sue matter. But they noted that Rice had subsequently filed objections to their statement of fees and in the intervening time having to respond to Rice's objections, they incurred an additional $12,808.30.

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