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Fisher v. Stellar Recovery, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 3, 2016

KATHLEEN FISHER, Plaintiff,
v.
STELLAR RECOVERY, INC., a Florida corporation, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES

William J. Martínez, United States District Judge

Plaintiff initiated this action on July 9, 2015 arising out of Defendant’s alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), specifically 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(2)(A), e(8), and e(10). (ECF No. 1.) On August 11, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Acceptance of Defendant’s Offer of Judgment. (ECF No. 9.) On August 12, 2015, final judgment was entered in Plaintiff’s favor in the amount of $1, 000.01. (ECF No. 10.) The Judgment provides that Plaintiff’s costs and reasonable attorney’s fees are to be added to the judgment against Defendant. (Id.) Plaintiff accordingly filed her Motion for Attorney’s Fees (the “Motion”), which is now before the Court, on August 26, 2015.[1] (ECF No. 13.) On September 16, 2015, Defendant filed its Response to the Motion. (ECF No. 15.) Plaintiff’s Reply was filed on September 30, 2015. (ECF No. 16.) For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

Under the FDCPA, such awards are granted to successful litigants pursuant to 15 U.S.C § 1692k(a)(3). Motions for attorney’s fees are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2).

To determine reasonable attorney’s fees, the Court must calculate a “lodestar figure” by multiplying a reasonable hourly rate by the hours reasonably expended. Praseuth v. Rubbermaid, Inc., 406 F.3d 1245, 1257 (10th Cir. 2005). Counsel should exercise “billing judgment” prior to submitting a fee request to eliminate any needless, excessive, or redundant hours. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983). Billing judgment should also take into account the experience and relative skill of the billing attorneys. Id.

A district court may use its discretion to fashion an award of attorney’s fees it deems appropriate where counsel requests payment for hours other than those reasonably expended. Ramos v. Lamm, 713 F.2d 546, 554-55 (10th Cir. 1983), overruled on other grounds by Pennsylvania v. Del. Valley Citizens’ Council for Clean Air, 483 U.S. 711 (1987). Additional factors to determine a fee’s reasonableness include “the complexity of the case, the number of reasonable strategies pursued, . . . the responses necessitated by the maneuvering of the other side, ” any potential duplicative services, and whether the hours would “normally be billed to a paying client.” Id. at 554. Importantly, the district court “need not identify and justify every hour allowed or disallowed” with respect to legal services rendered. Malloy v. Monahan, 73 F.3d 1012, 1018 (10th Cir. 1996).

II. ANALYSIS

Plaintiff claims that her counsel, Mr. David Larson, expended 10.8 hours on this matter. (ECF No. 13 ¶ 19.) Plaintiff also claims that her attorney expended two additional hours reviewing the Response, researching cited case law, and drafting a Reply. (ECF No. 13 ¶ 20; ECF No. 16 at 10.) Plaintiff claims that a reasonable hourly rate for Mr. Larson’s work was $350.00 and accordingly seeks $4, 480.00 in attorney’s fees. (ECF No. 13 ¶ 20.) Defendant contends that $350.00 is not a reasonable hourly rate for Mr. Larson’s work; rather, $250.00 is a reasonable hourly rate. (ECF No. 15 at 5-6.) Defendant also argues that Plaintiff’s claim of the time expended by Mr. Larson on this matter is excessive and unreasonable. (Id. at 6-7.)

A. Reasonable Hourly Rate

Plaintiff provides the Affidavit of Richard B. Wynkoop to support her assertion that $350.00 is a reasonable hourly rate for Mr. Larson. (ECF. No 13 ¶ 31; ECF No. 14 ¶ 13.) However, Defendant points out that Mr. Larson has previously indicated that $250.00 was an acceptable hourly rate. See Garcia v. Midland Credit Mgmt., Inc., 2015 WL 4911544, at *1 (D. Colo. Aug. 18, 2015). In another case-in which the defendant was Stellar Recovery, just as in the immediate case-Mr. Larson claimed that $250.00 was an acceptable hourly rate. Sanchez v. Stellar Recovery, Inc., 2015 WL 3646983, at *1 (D. Colo. June 11, 2015).

Nevertheless, the undersigned has previously found that a $300.00 hourly rate is reasonable for a partner litigating an FDCPA case. Reynolds v. Precollect, Inc., 2013 WL 3786645, at *3 (D. Colo. July 19, 2013). Additionally, other judges of this Court have, on two recent occasions, held that $300.00 was a reasonable hourly rate for Mr. Larson in an FDCPA case involving Stellar Recovery as the defendant. Harper v. Stellar Recovery, Inc., 2015 WL 7253239, at *2 (D. Colo. Nov. 16, 2015) (“$300 per hour-is the prevailing market rate for someone with Mr. Larson’s experience and skill to handle an FDCPA matter . . . .”); Sandoval v. Stellar Recovery, Inc., 2016 WL 74941, at *2 (D. Colo. Jan. 7, 2016). Accordingly, the Court finds that $300.00 is the reasonable hourly rate for Mr Larson’s services in this matter.

B. Hours Reasonably Expended

Mr. Larson has been in practice for 14 years and has litigated over 2, 300 FDCPA cases. (ECF No. 14-1 ¶ 7, ) see also Harper, 2015 WL 7253239, at *1. Because of Mr. Larson’s extensive experience litigating FDCPA cases, Defendant argues that Mr. Larson should require less time to advise his client and less time to draft FDCPA complaints, form motions, and other documents common to this type of matter. (ECF No. 15 at 7-8.)

The Court has reviewed the Motion and accompanying documentation and agrees with Defendant that Plaintiff’s fee request is excessive. As U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson stated in his September 24, 2012 Order on Mr. Larson’s Motion for Attorney’s ...


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