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Leforge v. Feiwell & Hannoy, P.C.

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

June 2, 2015

FEIWELL & HANNOY, P.C., Defendant.


RICHARD L. YOUNG, Chief District Judge.

On January 20, 2015, a jury determined that Defendant, Feiwell & Hannoy, P.C. ("F&H") violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"). The jury awarded Plaintiff, Luda Christine Hayward LeForge ("LeForge"), $1, 000.00 in statutory damages and $4, 500.00 in actual damages. The court instructed the parties to try to come to an agreement on the attorney's fees and costs. The parties have not been able to do so. As such, LeForge has filed a motion for attorney's fees and costs and a supplemental motion. F&H objects to the amount of the fees and costs. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motions are GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. Background

LeForge seeks an award of $37, 415.00 in attorney's fees, $576.72 in costs and nontaxable expenses to counsel, and $23, 528.31 in costs to LeForge. F&H objects and counters that a reasonable calculation of the attorney's fees in this matter is $11, 482.50[1] and a reasonable calculation of the costs and nontaxable expenses is $926.72. The court will first consider the request for attorney's fees and then examine the requests for costs.

II. Standard

Under the FDCPA, a debt collector who violates the act, is liable to the successful claimant for "the costs of the action, together with a reasonable attorney's fee as determined by the court." 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(1)(3). The Seventh Circuit has found that the statute makes an award of such fees mandatory. See Tolentino v. Friedman, 46 F.3d 645, 651 (7th Cir. 1995).

The touchstone for a district court's calculation of attorney's fees is the lodestar method, which is calculated by multiplying a reasonable hourly rate by the number of hours reasonably expended. Id. at 856 (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433-37 (1983)). If necessary, the district court has the flexibility to "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." Id. at 856-57. "The standard is whether the fees are reasonable in relation to the difficulty, stakes, and outcome of the case." Connolly v. Nat'l Sch. Bus. Serv., Inc., 177 F.3d 593, 597 (7th Cir. 1999) (quoting Bankston v. Illinois, 60 F.3d 1249, 1256 (7th Cir. 1995)).

III. Discussion

A. Attorney's Fees

1. Are Mr. Murray's fees reasonable?

A reasonable attorney's fee is defined as "the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. Mr. Kyle Murray's hourly rate is $200.00 and his associate, Andrew Ferguson's, rate is $150.00 per hour. F&H does not object to the hourly rates of Mr. Murray or his associate; however, F&H objects to certain hours that Mr. Murray and/or his associate billed. Specifically, F&H asks the court to strike hours related to: (1) administrative and clerical tasks, (2) Plaintiff's attempt to reopen discovery, and (3) hours spent researching based upon an unfamiliarity with the FDCPA practice and Seventh Circuit authority. The court will discuss each in turn.

a. Administrative and clerical tasks

F&H asserts that the court should strike the hours devoted to administrative and clerical tasks. In support, F&H relies on Spegon v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 175 F.3d 544, 553 (7th Cir. 1999). In Spegon, the Seventh Circuit found that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it disallowed the time spent on "simple administrative tasks that easily could have been performed by a full-time secretary." Id. Specifically, those tasks included "updating her case list' and calendar with the status of [the] case and holding office conferences with a paralegal regarding a paralegal's communications with the court's minute clerk." Id. The court noted that these services were not the type an attorney would normally bill for nor did they contribute to the further of Spegon's interest in the case. Id. Relying on that case, Defendant asks the court to not award fees for the following:

• 11/12/14: Conference with Kyle [Murray] regarding settlement conference and pre-trial conference. Begin preparation of exhibit binders for trial. 2.80 ($420.00)
• 11/12/14: Review of F&H's objections to LeForge's motions in limine and jury instructions. Review of F&H's motions in limine and jury instructions in preparation of final pre-trial hearing. Conference with Andrew Ferguson regarding trial binder preparation and preparation of exhibits for opposing counsel, witnesses, and Court... 3.10 ($620)
• 1/16/2015: Preparation for trial. Prepare materials for case presentation. Review juror questionnaires. 2.20 ($330.00)
• 1/19/2015: Travel to Indianapolis to attend Trial. Meet with clients to discuss testimony at trial. Preparation with Kyle Murray for opening arguments and ...

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