United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division
JEREMY STALLSWORTH, Individually, and on behalf of all others, Plaintiff,
MARS PETCARE U.S. INC., Defendant.
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY United States District Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Attorneys'
Fees and Costs, Doc. 34, and Defendant's Motion to Take
Judicial Notice, Doc. 38. 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 Staff
Management | SMX for employment at Defendant Mars Petcare US,
Plaintiff was hired, placed in a position at the
Defendant'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 SMX. Plaintiff learned that SMX had
obtained a consumer report concerning him, which it shared
with the Defendant, and that he was denied employment with
the Defendant due to information in the report.
August 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed the present putative class
action against Defendant Mars Petcare US, Inc. in the Circuit
Court of Cole County, Missouri. On that same day, Plaintiff
also filed a separate-but nearly identical-putative class
action against SMX. Both cases were based on the same events,
and alleged violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. On
September 21, 2017, Defendant removed the case to this Court.
On September 28, 2017, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint,
Doc. 6. On October 12, 2017, Defendant filed a motion to
consolidate this case with Plaintiff's suit against SMX,
which is also pending before this Court, and a motion to
compel arbitration. Docs. 9, 10. Plaintiff responded to both
motions on November 21, 2017.
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 $1, 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 $41, 050.00 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 a rate of $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
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. 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 ...