United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge
case involves Defendants EOS CCA's
(“EOS”) and U.S. Asset Management,
Inc.'s (“U.S. Asset Management”)
efforts to collect a principal amount, interest, and
fees/collection costs on behalf of AT&T Mobility.
AT&T Mobility claimed Plaintiff Sherry Reynolds owed
these amounts after she stopped making payments on her
AT&T Mobility account. Ms. Reynolds initiated this action
against Defendants, alleging that they violated § 1692d,
1692e, and 1692f of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(“FDCPA”). She argued that Defendants
violated the FDCPA by attempting to collect interest and
collection costs not provided for in any contract between her
and AT&T Mobility. Despite settling numerous other cases
involving the same issue, Defendants opted to vigorously
litigate this case. Ultimately, the Court granted summary
judgment in favor of Ms. Reynolds on her § 1692e and
§ 1692f claims related to the collection of interest and
costs, finding that Defendants had not provided any evidence
suggesting the presence of a binding contract between Ms.
Reynolds and AT&T Mobility that provided for the
imposition of those amounts. [Filing No. 59 at
9-13.] The Court denied Ms. Reynolds' summary
judgment motion as it related to her § 1692d claim,
finding that she had not presented any evidence of a
violation of that provision. [Filing No. 59 at
13-14.] On June 2, 2016, Ms. Reynolds notified the Court
that she was voluntarily dismissing her § 1692d claim,
[Filing No. 64], and the Court acknowledged the
dismissal, [Filing No. 65].
pending before the Court are Ms. Reynolds' Motion for
Assessment of Attorneys' Fees and Costs, [Filing No.
70], and her Supplemental Motion for Assessment of
Attorneys' Fees and Costs, [Filing No. 78]. As
discussed below, the Court finds the fees and costs Ms.
Reynolds requests to be reasonable for the most part, with
some adjustments. Accordingly, it grants Ms. Reynolds'
motion in part and denies it in part.
Reynolds initiated this lawsuit on November 14, 2014,
[Filing No. 1], and, after conducting discovery and
attending numerous pretrial conferences (including a
settlement conference), she moved for summary judgment on
December 29, 2015, [Filing No. 46]. As noted above,
Ms. Reynolds obtained summary judgment on two claims, and
voluntarily dismissed her remaining claim. [Filing No.
59; Filing No. 64.] In the meantime, Defendants
- or in some cases just EOS, if U.S. Asset Management was not
named as a defendant - entered into settlements without
significant litigation with seven plaintiffs who filed cases
in this District asserting claims based on facts
substantially similar to the facts in this case. [See
George v. EOS CCA, et al., 1:14-cv-0556-SEB-DML;
Smith v. EOS CCA, 1:14-cv-01778-WTL-MJD; Emery
v. EOS CCA, et al., 1:13-cv-1421-LJM-DKL; Milliken
v. EOS CCA, 1:13-cv-01748-WTL-TAB; Hunt v. EOS CCA,
et al., 1:13-cv-01787-TWP-DML; Hill v. EOS CCA, et
al., 1:13-cv-02049-RLY-TAB; Howell v. EOS CCA,
1:14-cv-01259-WTL-MJD.] Despite the similarity of Ms.
Reynolds' claims, Defendants chose to vigorously litigate
this case (including the issue of attorneys' fees and
costs) along with another substantially similar case,
Reed v. EOS CCA, 1:14-cv-1745-JMS-DKL.
obtaining summary judgment on two of her claims, the parties
agreed that Ms. Reynolds would receive $2, 000 in statutory
damages from Defendants, and the fee issue is now the only
issue remaining in this litigation. [See Filing
No. 78 at 1.] Ms. Reynolds now seeks a total of $26,
126.25 in attorneys' fees and $1, 450.23 in costs.
[Filing No. 70; Filing No. 78.]
1692k of the FDCPA provides that “any debt collector
who fails to comply with any provision of this subchapter
with respect to any person is liable to such person in an
amount equal to the sum of…in the case of any
successful action to enforce the foregoing liability, the
costs of the action, together with a reasonable
attorney's fee as determined by the court.” 15
U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3). The party seeking the fee award
has the burden of proving the reasonableness of the fees
sought. Spegon v. Catholic Bishop of Chi., 175 F.3d
544, 550 (7th Cir. 1999). Once this burden is met, then the
party opposing the fee award has the burden of demonstrating
why the amount sought is unreasonable. Pickett v.
Sheridan Health Care Ctr., 664 F.3d 632, 640 (7th Cir.
the district court “is in the best position to make the
‘contextual and fact-specific' assessment of what
fees are reasonable.” Montanez v. Simon, 755
F.3d 547, 553 (7th Cir. 2014). Although the district
court's discretion is not boundless, the United States
Supreme Court “has said that there is hardly any
‘sphere of judicial decisionmaking in which appellate
micromanagement has less to recommend.'”
Id. (quoting Fox v. Vice, 131 S.Ct. 2205,
Court “generally begins the fee calculation by
computing a ‘lodestar': the product of the hours
reasonably expended on the case multiplied by a reasonable
hourly rate.” Montanez, 755 F.3d at 553.
“Although the lodestar yields a presumptively
reasonable fee, ” the Court may still adjust that fee
based on factors not included in the computation.
Id.(citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S.
424, 434 (1983)). Ultimately, “the guiding inquiry is
whether ‘the plaintiff achieve[d] a level of success
that makes the hours reasonably expended a satisfactory basis
for making a fee award.'” Montanez, 755
F.3d at 553 (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434). In
calculating the lodestar the Court “need not, and
indeed should not, become green-eyeshade accountants. The
essential goal in shifting fees (to either party) is to do
rough justice, not to achieve auditing perfection.”
Fox, 131 S.Ct. at 2216. Accordingly, the Court “may
take into account their overall sense of a suit, and may use
estimates in calculating and allocating an attorney's
Reynolds argues in support of her motion that Defendants
chose to litigate this case even though they settled seven
similar cases, that an award of attorneys' fees is
mandatory under the FDCPA when the plaintiff prevails, that
the lodestar method is applicable, that her attorneys'
rates are reasonable, and that her attorneys spent a
reasonable amount of time litigating the case. [Filing
No. 71 at 1-13.] Ms. Reynolds submits the curriculum
vitae of her attorneys, [Filing No. 70-2; Filing
No. 70-5], her attorneys' itemized invoices,
[Filing No. 70-3], and the Declaration of David J.
Philipps, [Filing No. 70-6]. Mr. Philipps is an
experienced FDCPA litigator who opines that Ms. Reynolds'
attorneys have “a solid reputation for their work for
consumers on FDCPA lawsuits, ” and that their hourly
rates are “at the low end of the range of rates charged
in the Indianapolis market for work performed in contingent,
statutory fee-shifting cases, particularly considering their
experience in such matters.” [Filing No. 70-6 at
20-21.] Mr. Philipps also opines that the paralegal who
performed work on Ms. Reynolds' case has a rate which is
within the reasonable range. [Filing No. 70-6 at
21.] Finally, he states that “[t]he records reveal
that [Ms. Reynolds' attorneys] have been extremely
efficient in their time, with much of the time incurred by
[an associate], who has a lower rate.” [Filing No.
70-6 at 21.]
response, Defendants argue that the fees Ms. Reynolds seeks
should be “drastically reduced.” [Filing No.
75 at 1.] They agree that the lodestar method applies,
but argue that the hourly rates requested are unreasonable,
and the hours expended are unreasonable for a variety of
reasons, including that: (1) time was spent on boilerplate
forms and tasks; (2) time was spent on purely administrative
and clerical tasks; and (3) time was spent on duplicative,
excessive, and unnecessary tasks. [Filing No. 75 at
2-14.] Defendants request that the fee award be reduced
to an amount not to exceed $5, 000. [Filing No. 75 at
reply, Ms. Reynolds reiterates many of her arguments, and
stresses that Defendants levied an aggressive defense in this
case, that her attorneys needed to tailor boilerplate
pleadings to this case, that the items Defendants claim were
purely clerical in nature were ...