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Peavler v. Law Firm of Krisor & Associates

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 21, 2014

JOANN PEAVLER, Plaintiff,
v.
LAW FIRM OF KRISOR & ASSOCIATES, Defendant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For JOANN PEAVLER, Plaintiff: Michael Anthony Eades, JOHN STEINKAMP AND ASSOCIATES, Indianapolis, IN; John Thomas Steinkamp, JOHN T. STEINKAMP AND ASSOCIATES, Indianapolis, IN.

For LAW FIRM OF KRISOR & ASSOCIATES, Defendant: Todd J. Kaiser, OGLETREE, DEAKINS, NASH, SMOAK & STEWART, Indianapolis, IN.

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ENTRY ON ASSESSMENT OF ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS

Hon. Tanya Walton Pratt, United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Joann Peavler's (" Ms. Peavler" ) Motion for Assessment of Attorney's Fees and Costs (Filing No. 15). On April 8, 2014, Ms. Peavler filed a motion for an award of attorney's fees under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (" FDCPA" ). Defendant, The Law Firm of Krisor & Associates (" Krisor" ) opposed the motion, and Ms. Peavler filed a reply and a Supplemental Motion for Attorney's Fees. For the reasons stated below, the Motion is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

On January 17, 2014, Ms. Peavler brought this action against Krisor seeking " actual and statutory damages, legal fees and costs" pursuant to the FDCPA (Filing No. 1). On or about March 18, 2014, Krisor made an Offer of Judgment on the FDCPA claim and agreed " to pay $1,000 in statutory damages, as well as, [sic] the Plaintiff's reasonable attorney's fees and costs." (Filing No. 16, at ECF p. 1). Ms. Peavler accepted the Offer of Judgment on March 24, 2014, and sent a settlement proposal to the Defendant on April 1, 2014. On that same date she filed the instant Motion for Assessment of Attorney's Fees and Costs.

Ms. Peavler employs the familiar lodestar method to calculate the attorney's fees leading to the acceptance of the offer of judgment, and requests $2,675.00 for attorney time (10.7 hours at $250.00 per hour),

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$720.00 for paralegal/clerk time (7.2 hours at $100.00 per hour), and $500.00 in additional costs. ( See Filing No. 15-3; Filing No. 16.) This amount, totaling $3,895.00, is explained in detail by the invoice submitted by Ms. Peavler's counsel. (Filing No. 15-3.)

Krisor does not generally oppose the award of attorney's fees and costs, but does challenge two aspects of the award sought by Ms. Peavler and argues the amount of the award should be reduced, because 1) the number of hours expended by Ms. Peavler's counsel was unreasonable; and 2) the attorney's fees are inconsistent with Ms. Peavler's bankruptcy position.

A Supplemental Affidavit (Filing No. 21 ) accounts for professional services rendered after the acceptance of the offer of judgment and, in doing so, requests an additional $2,825.00 for attorney time (11.3 hours at $250.00 per hour) and $580.00 for paralegal/clerk time (5.8 hours at $100.00 per hour) for the Reply to Defendant Krisor's Response (Filing No. 20). Additionally, Ms. Peavler submitted a Supplemental Motion (Filing No. 26) ostensibly to clarify, revise, and supplement requests that had already been explained and detailed across the original Motion for Assessment of Attorney's Fees and Costs (Filing No. 15), the original Motion's Exhibit B (Filing No. 15-3), and the Supplemental Affidavit of Attorney's Fees and Costs (Filing No. 21). As originally submitted, Exhibit A of the Supplemental Motion (Filing No. 26-2) overlooked entries for April 22, 2014 through May 5, 2014 ( see Filing No. 26-2, at ECF pp. 7-8) and was subsequently corrected the following day ( See Filing No. 27). When corrected, the revised Exhibit A (Filing No. 27-1), requests for professional services rendered after acceptance of the offer of judgment a total of $4,125.00 for attorney time (15.0 hours at $275.00 per hour) and $840.00 for paralegal/clerk time (8.4 hours at $100.00 per hour) (Filing No. 27-1). Combined with the pre-acceptance amount, Ms. Peavler requests a total award of $8,860.00.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Plaintiffs who prevail under the FDCPA are entitled to an award of costs and reasonable attorney's fees as determined by the Court. 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3); Tolentino v. Friedman, 46 F.3d 645, 651 (7th Cir. 1995). In proving the reasonableness of attorney's fees, the burden rests on the party seeking the fee award. Spegon v. Catholic Bishop of Chi., 175 F.3d 544, 550 (7th Cir. 1999). The decision whether to award fees rests within the broad discretion of the District Court, id. (quoting Bankston v. Ill., 60 F.3d 1249, 1255 (7th Cir. 1995)), who is able to exercise discretion to remove any " excessive, redundant or otherwise unnecessary" hours, Small v. Richard Wolf Med. Instruments Corp., 264 F.3d 702, 708 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983)).

Because the fee amount is not mechanically linked to the amount of the plaintiff's award, Eddleman v. Switchcraft, Inc., 927 F.2d 316, 318 (7th Cir. 1991), the lodestar method of calculating the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate is an appropriate, and helpful, determination. Gastineau v. Wright, 592 F.3d 747, 748 (7th Cir. 2010). This method may be adjusted by the Court to " reflect various factors including the complexity of the legal issues involved, the degree of success obtained, and the public interest advanced by the litigation." Schlacher v. Law Offices of Phillip J. Rotche & Assocs., P.C., 574 F.3d 852, 856-57 (7th Cir. 2009). In this manner, the lodestar method yields a

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fee amount that is presumptively reasonable, see Pa. v. Del. Valley Citizens Counsel for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546, 565, 106 S.Ct. 3088, 92 L.Ed.2d 439 (1986); Gastineau, 592 F.3d at 748, yet defers to the district court's " greater familiarity with the case" regarding the reasonable number of hours expended on the case. Small, 264 F.3d at 708; see also Gastineau, 592 F.3d at 748 (affirming ...


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