United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs Petition for
Attorneys' Fees Pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act (ECF No. 18). This matter is fully briefed and
ready for disposition.
Motion of Plaintiff Barbara Harris ("Harris"), she
seeks an award of attorneys' fees pursuant to the Fair
Debt Collection Practices Act. 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3)
("Except as otherwise provided by this section, any debt
collector who fails to comply with any provision of this
subchapter with respect to any person is liable.. .in the
case of any successful action to enforce the foregoing
liability, the costs of the action, together with a
reasonable attorney's fee as determined by the
court."). In the current case, Harris petitions this
Court for her attorneys' fees in the amount of $ 12,
261.50. This amount reflects 2.8 hours by attorney Larry
Smith at $450 per hour; 27.9 hours by attorney David Marco at
$385 per hour, and 2.0 hours by paralegals at $130 per hour.
(ECF No. 18 at 10). Harris also requested additional fees
from Mr. Marco in the amount of $1, 337.50 to review
Defendant National Credit Systems, Inc.'s
("Defendant") response brief and draft the reply.
(ECF No. 24 at 12).
sides agree that the Court should employ the lodestar method
to determine the amount of attorneys' fees that should be
awarded to Harris. (ECF No. 18 at 7). The lodestar amount is
calculated based upon the number of hours reasonably expended
on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.
Johnston v. Comerica Mortg. Corp., 83 F.3d 241, 244
(8th Cir. 1996).
Number of Hours Reasonably Expended
argues that the number of hours expended was reasonable under
the circumstances. In particular, Harris notes that she made
her initial settlement demand on March 10, 2016 in the amount
of $3, 750, but no offer was received. (ECF No. 18 at 12).
Harris continued to make seven (7) offers, most of which
never received a response. (ECF No. 18 at 12-13). Ultimately,
Defendant made an Offer of Judgment after ten (10) months,
but the parties failed to agree to an attorneys' fee
award. (ECF No. 18 at 13; ECF No. 24 at 4). Harris argues
that Defendant was the "driving force" behind this
litigation and, as a result, Harris' fees were reasonably
incurred. (ECF No. 18 at 15). Further, Harris notes that
Defendant has not provided its own incurred fees as evidence
that Harris' counsel's fees were excessive. (ECF No.
24 at 9-10). Harris maintains that she did not provide her
counsel's time records because Defendant unequivocally
informed Harris that it was extremely unlikely that it would
provide an offer in excess of $5, 000, so production of her
time records would not have resolved the dispute.
response, Defendant claims that the number of hours billed
was excessive. Defendant contends that Harris'
counsels' time entries show duplication of work, the use
of too many attorneys, expenditures of time performing simple
or routine tasks, and/or the performance of clerical tasks by
legal professionals. (ECF No. 21 at 6-8). In addition,
Defendant contends that Harris refused to provide time
records to Defendant prior to filing her fee petition;
therefore, Defendant asserts that Harris should not be
awarded any additional fees for preparing the fee petition
since efforts to resolve the dispute without court
intervention were not done in good faith, (ECFNo. 21 at 8).
Court holds that the number of hours sought is excessive,
given the amount of litigation that occurred in this case.
For example, the Court finds that the May 18, 2016 entry for
1.30, which included performing edits on the complaint and
other documents, included excessive time. Likewise, the Court
holds that the amount of time spent reviewing communications
during the course of the settlement negotiations was
excessive. For example, the .6 hours spent on March 28, 2016
is excessive, given that counsel only "re-reviewed"
the allegations with the client and left a message for
opposing counsel. Finally, the Court holds that the .6 hours
for receiving a signed retainer agreement, sending a
notification that it was received, and preparing the filing
instructions on January 20, 2016 was excessive for an
attorney performing clerical work. Therefore, the Court cuts
the attorney and paralegal hours by forty (40) percent.
lodestar looks to 'the prevailing market rates in the
relevant community.'" Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel.
Winn, 559 U.S. 542, 551 (2010) (quoting Blum v.
Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 (1984)). Harris refers to the
"Laffey Matrix" to support her requested hourly
rate, noting that the rates sought by Harris' counsel are
commensurate with the recognized rates for attorneys with
similar experience. (ECF No. 18 at 10). The Laffey Matrix is
"an official statement of market-supported reasonable
attorney fee rates which was adopted, and is periodically
updated, by the United States Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia." Adcock-Ladd v. Sec'y of
Treasury, 227 F.3d 343, 347, n.3 (6th Cir. 2000). Harris
also cites to case law from various jurisdictions, including
a couple of cases from the Eastern District of Missouri to
support her attorney fee award. See ECF No. 18-5.
argues that the Laffey matrix, which is based upon rates in
Washington D.C. is not a proper measure for the prevailing
market rates in the Eastern District of Missouri. (ECF No. 21
at 5). Defendant also notes that Harris does not provide
information regarding how her counsel's billing rates,
experience, and qualifications compare with similarly
situated attorneys practicing in this district. Finally,
Defendant claims that the other cases cited by Harris, which
are largely default judgments and unopposed fee requests from
other judicial districts, fail to provide any insight as to
whether the fees sought in this matter are
"reasonable." (ECF No. 21 at 5-6). Defendant
instead refers to cases in this district which provide more
"reasonable" hourly fees. (ECF No. 21 at 6 (citing
Maker v. Barton, No. 4:13-CV-2260 CEJ, 2014 WL
1316936, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 2, 2014) (Finding the requested
hourly rate of $300.00 to be excessive for an attorney of Mr.
Pontello's skill and experience, and awarding an hourly
rate of $280.00 instead); Conway v. Specified Credit
Assn. 1, Inc., No. 4:13-CV-1821 CEJ, 2014 WL 51024, at
*3 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 7, 2014) ($295 per hour); Penning v.
Allstate Fin. Servs., Inc., No. 4:10CV01398 AGF, 2011 WL
766387, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 25, 2011) ($265.00 per hour);
Batchelor v. Profile Recovery Grp., LLC, No.
4:10CV01502 AGF, 2011 WL 766389, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 25,
2011) (awarding fees of $275.00 per hour).
Court agrees that the hourly rate requested by Harris'
counsel is in excess of prevailing rates in this area.
Likewise, Harris does not provide persuasive evidence to
support her requested rates. The cases cited by Harris are
often from jurisdictions with higher prevailing attorney
rates. Those attorney rates are not relevant to the
prevailing rates in the Eastern District of Missouri. In
addition, the opinions cited by Harris largely fail to
discuss the propriety of the attorney billing rates because
they were often consent judgments. The Court finds that,
based upon its review of the case law in this district, the
appropriate hourly billing rate for Mr. Smith ...