United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS
DENISE K. LaRUE, Magistrate Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Petition for Assessment of Attorney's Fees and Costs [Dkt. 87] and Plaintiff's Motion for Supplemental Award of Attorneys' Fees [Dkt. 101]. For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motions and awards $26, 625.00 in attorney's fees and costs.
I. Procedural History
Defendant is a debt collection agency that attempted to collect two debts from Plaintiff. On August 21, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging two violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act ("FDCPA"). The Court found Defendant's actions relating to Count I constituted a violation of the FDCPA and granted Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment on May 7, 2014. [Dkt. 85.] The Court awarded Plaintiff $1, 000.00 in statutory damages and attorney's fees related to Count I. The Court conducted a bench trial on Count II on September 11, 2014, the resolution of which is discussed in a separate entry. Pursuant to the fee-shifting provision of the FDCPA, Plaintiff filed Plaintiff's Petition for Assessment of Attorney's Fees and Costs [Dkt. 87] and Plaintiff's Motion for Supplemental Award of Attorneys' Fees [Dkt. 101]. Defendant objects to the total fee award as excessive and unreasonable.
II. Legal Standard
Plaintiffs who prevail under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act are entitled to an award of costs and reasonable attorney's fees. 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3); Tolentino v. Friedman, 46 F.3d 645, 651 (7th Cir. 1995). An individual plaintiff's recovery of statutory damages under the FDCPA is capped at $1000.00. Because that relatively modest sum would probably not merit an aggrieved individual paying an attorney to pursue such an action, nor an attorney accepting the case on a contingency fee basis, Congress included 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3), which mandates the court to award to a prevailing plaintiff "reasonable attorney's fees as determined by the court." Schlacher v. Law Offices of Phillip J. Rotche & Assocs., P.C., 574 F.3d 852, 856 (7th Cir. 2009).
Although there is no precise formula for determining a reasonable fee, the district court generally begins by calculating the lodestar-the attorney's reasonable hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours reasonably expended. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433-37 (1983); Gautreaux v. Chi. Housing Auth., 491 F.3d 649, 659 (7th Cir. 2007). The district court may then adjust that figure 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. Gastineau v. Wright, 592 F.3d 747, 748 (7th Cir. 2010). The party seeking the fee award bears the burden of proving the reasonableness of the hours worked and the hourly rates claimed. Spegon v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 175 F.3d 544, 550 (7th Cir. 1999).
A. Reasonableness of Hourly Rates
Defendant does not object to paying reasonable attorney's fees at the rate of $275.00 per hour for Mr. Steinkamp; $175.00 per hour for Mr. Eades and $100.00 per hour for paralegal time.
B. Reasonableness of Hours Expended
1. Drafting the Complaint and Researching Defendant
Defendant objects to time billed for researching Defendant and modifying a form complaint. Specifically, Defendant objects to.40 hours of paralegal time to research Defendant on July 13, 2012 and 1.40 hours of paralegal time to draft the complaint and accompanying documents on August 10, 2012. Defendant contends that since Plaintiff had previously filed a lawsuit against Defendant, additional research was unnecessary. Further, Plaintiff argues the time billed to modify a form complaint was excessive.
Plaintiff cites Young v. Accounts Recovery Bureau, 2012 WL 3764014 (S.D. Ind. 2012), another FDCPA case from this Court in which Mr. Steinkamp also represented the plaintiff, in support of her arguments. In that case, the Court found it excessive to charge 1.9 hours of paralegal time to make relatively minor changes to a form complaint. The Court further found it unreasonable to bill any time to research a Defendant that counsel was already familiar with through prior lawsuits. The Court reduced the 1.9 hours by one-half to.95 hours and zero hours for research. Defendant requests the Court do the same in this case. The Court agrees consistent treatment of this type of time entry ...