United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division
JEREMY STALLSWORTH, Individually, and on behalf of all others, Plaintiff,
STAFF MANAGEMENT SMX SMX, LLC, Defendant.
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY United States District Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Attorneys'
Fees and Costs, Doc. 36, and Defendant's Motion to Take
Judicial Notice, Doc. 39. For the following reasons,
Plaintiff's motion is granted in part and denied in part,
and Defendant's motion is granted.
2017, Plaintiff Jeremy Stallsworth applied with Defendant
Staff Management | SMX for employment at Mars Petcare US,
Inc. Plaintiff was hired, placed in a position at Mars
Petcare's facility, and attended a four hour orientation
session. After orientation, Plaintiff was told that he would
receive a phone call notifying him of his start date. When
Plaintiff did not receive a phone call within a few days, he
contacted the Defendant. Plaintiff learned that the Defendant
had obtained a consumer report concerning Plaintiff, which it
shared with Mars Petcare, and that he was denied employment
with Mars Petcare due to information in the report.
August 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed this putative class action
against Defendant SMX in the Circuit Court of Cole County,
Missouri. On that same day, Plaintiff also filed a separate-
but nearly identical-putative class action against Mars
cases were based on the same events, and alleged violations
of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. On September 21, 2017, the
Defendant removed the case to this Court. On September 28,
2017, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. Doc. 7. On
October 12, 2017, Defendant filed a motion to consolidate
this case with Plaintiff's suit against Mars Petcare,
which is also pending before this Court, as well as a motion
to compel arbitration. Docs. 10, 11. On November 21, 2017,
Plaintiff responded to both motions. Docs. 27, 29.
November 30, 2017, just three months after the case was
filed, the parties notified the Court that they had reached a
settlement. Plaintiff agreed to accept $5, 000, as well as
reasonable attorneys' fees and costs, in exchange for a
release of his claims against Defendant. The parties further
agreed that they would attempt to reach a consensus regarding
the amount of attorneys' fees and costs, but that if they
could not, the matter would be submitted to the Court for a
ruling. The parties were unable to reach such an agreement,
and thus Plaintiff filed the present motion for
attorneys' fees and costs.
undisputed that Plaintiff is entitled to an award of costs
and reasonable attorneys' fees under the FCRA.
See 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681n(a)(3) and
1681o(a)(2) (providing that a plaintiff may recover costs and
reasonable attorney's fees “in the case of any
successful action to enforce any liability”). The
starting point in determining reasonable attorneys' fees
is the lodestar calculation: the number of hours reasonably
expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly
rate. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433
(1983); Hanig v. Lee, 415 F.3d 822, 825 (8th Cir.
2005). There is a strong presumption that the lodestar
calculation represents a reasonable fee award. City of
Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 562 (1992).
party seeking the award must submit documentation supporting
the requested amount, making a good faith effort to exclude
hours that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise
unnecessary. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434. Counsel must
exercise “billing judgment, ” and be mindful that
“hours that are not properly billed to one's client
also are not billed to one's adversary pursuant to
statutory authority.” Id. (citation omitted).
In assessing the amount requested, courts may consider: (1)
the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty
of the legal questions; (3) the skill requisite to handle the
case properly; (4) the preclusion of other employment by the
attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5) the customary fee
for similar work in the community; (6) whether the fee is
fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by the
client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the
results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability
of the attorneys; (10) the “undesirability” of
the case; (11) the nature and length of the professional
relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar
cases. United Health Care Corp. v. American Trade Ins.
Co., Ltd., 88 F.3d 563, 575 n.9 (8th Cir.
1996) (citing Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434 n.3).
seeks $18, 615.00 in attorneys' fees, and $184.47 in
costs and expenses. Plaintiff's request is based on a
$550 per hour rate for the two attorneys who prosecuted the
case, Jason Brown and Jayson Watkins, as well as legal
assistant fees at $100 per hour. In support of this motion,
Plaintiff submitted itemized time records, declarations from
Mr. Brown and Mr. Watkins, and a firm resume. The breakdown
of hours and grand total sought are as follows:
Legal Assistant Graham
amount that Plaintiff seeks for costs and expenses includes
only an initial filing fee, and a service fee.
does not dispute that Plaintiff is entitled to an award of
attorneys' fees and costs, or that a lodestar calculation
is the appropriate method of determining the amount. Instead,
Defendant argues that Plaintiff's requested amount should
be reduced because the number of hours counsel recorded is
unreasonable, and because the hourly rates are excessive.
Reasonableness of ...