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Allerdissen v. Medical Commercial Audit, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

December 26, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs motion for attorneys' fees (Doc. No. 20) and motion for bill of costs (Doc. No. 21). Defendant opposes the motion and objects to Plaintiffs calculation of costs and fees. (Doc. No. 24). Plaintiff filed a reply. (Doc. No. 27). Accordingly, the matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs motion for attorney's fees will be granted in part and denied in part, and the motion for costs and fees will be granted.

         I. Background

         On May 14, 2019, Plaintiff brought this lawsuit against Defendant Medical Commercial Audit, Inc. d/b/a MCA Management Company/Medical Commercial Audit, Inc., asserting violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq. ("FDCPA"). On August 12, 2019, Defendant made an Offer of Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68, and on August 16, 2019, Plaintiff accepted. (Doc. No. 16). On August 28, 2019, the Court entered an Order & Judgment pursuant to the terms of the Offer of Judgment (Doc. No. 17) and directed Plaintiff to submit his reasonable costs and attorneys' fees.

         On September 27, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant motions seeking attorneys' fees of $11, 295, the filing fee of $400, and co-counsel's pro hac vice admission fee of $100. Plaintiff maintains that the fees are reasonable because his attorneys, who are both local and out-of-state, spent 33.2 hours working on his case. He claims that counsel spent the requisite amount of time investigating claims available to him, researching novel and difficult issues related to the proper identity of the creditor, obtaining the necessary documentation and briefing to present Plaintiffs case in federal court, and securing more than the maximum relief available to Plaintiff.

         Defendant objects to the amount of attorneys' fees, arguing that: (1) Plaintiffs lead counsel seeks his full $300 rate for administrative work he performed; (2) the amount of time the lead attorney claims to have spent on legal work exceeds what is necessary for an attorney with his experience; (3) the Court should not award Plaintiff any fee related to the involvement of out-of-state co-counsel because their roles were duplicative; and (4) one of the out-of-state attorneys submitted no affidavit to support her credentials or that she actually performed the work alleged. Defendant argues that the case was in its early stages when it settled and that over the course of three months while the case was pending, no mediation was held, no depositions were taken, and no court hearings or conferences were held. Accordingly, Defendant contends that the request for $11, 295 is "extreme and excessive given the circumstances." (Doc. No. 24 at 2).

         In reply, Plaintiff reasserts his arguments that counsel's fees are reasonable, that all time expended by co-counsel was necessary, and that Plaintiff should be awarded additional attorney's fees for the 4.7 hours spent by counsel preparing the reply brief, thereby increasing his request for attorneys' fees to $12, 980.15.

         II. Discussion

         The FDCPA requires payment of costs and reasonable attorneys' fees to a successful consumer. 15 U.S.C. § l692k(a)(3). This Court is responsible for determining what constitutes "reasonable." Morgan v. Vogler Law Firm, P.C, No. 4:15-CV-1654 SNLJ, 2018 WL 6304869, at*l(E.D. Mo. Dec. 3, 2018).

         When determining the reasonableness of a fee request, the "lodestar" method is "the most useful starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee," i.e., "the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). In determining the overall reasonableness of an award of attorneys' fees, the Court may adjust this "lodestar" amount computed above, as the Court considers the twelve factors first set out in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974) (limited by Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87 (1989)), and used to determine the reasonableness of the fee. See Winter v. Cerro Gordo County Conservation Board, 925 F.2d 1069, 1074 n. 8 (8th Cir. 1991). These factors are:

(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions; (3) the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly; (4) the preclusion of other employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5) the customary fee; (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 attorney(s); (10) the undesirability of the case; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar cases.

Breeden v. Consumer Adjustment Co., No. 4:18-CV-01944 JAR, 2019 WL 1518185, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 8, 2019). The Court must reduce all "excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary" hours. El-Tabech v. Clarke, 616 F.3d 834 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434).

         Plaintiff seeks attorneys' fees and costs as follows:


Hours Claimed

Hourly Rate [1]


Boris Graypel (local counsel)



$5, 550

David Barshay (out-of-state counsel)



$5, 280

David Barshay (paralegal work)




Erica Carvajal (out-of-state counsel)






$11, 295

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