United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES
WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, JUDGE.
cause is before the Court on the Plaintiff's timely
motion for attorney fees following her acceptance of an offer
of judgment in this case. The motion is fully briefed and the
Court, being duly advised, GRANTS the motion
for the reasons set forth below.
offer of judgment provided for “reasonable
attorney's fees to be awarded by the Court.” Dkt.
No. 10-1. In her original motion, the Plaintiff seeks an
award of fees in the amount of $5, 372.00, which represents
13.6 hours at $395.00 per hour for her attorney, Robert Duff.
In her reply brief, she seeks fees for an additional 4.8
hours of work related to the motion for fees, for a total of
determining the appropriate amount of a fee award under a
fee-shifting statute, “the district 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 v. Simon, 755 F.3d 547, 553 (7th Cir.
2014). “Although the lodestar yields a presumptively
reasonable fee, the court may nevertheless adjust the fee
based on factors not included in the computation.”
case, the Defendants argue that the fee award should be
adjusted to $2, 000.00 because Plaintiff's counsel failed
to contact the Defendants regarding the possibility of
settlement prior to filing suit. The Court disagrees that a
wholesale reduction of the fee award based solely on the
failure to make a pre-suit demand is appropriate. Nor is the
Defendants' argument that the lodestar amount should be
reduced “in proportion to the amount of damages
recovered” well-taken; as the Plaintiff correctly
notes, the Seventh Circuit “has repeatedly rejected the
notion that the fees must be calculated proportionally to
damages[, and t]he principle applies equally to purported
disproportionality between the relief requested and that
received.” Estate of Enoch ex rel. Enoch v.
Tienor, 570 F.3d 821, 823 (7th Cir. 2009). Thus,
“[i]n cases which involve more than a nominal award, we
have rejected the notion that the fee award should be reduced
because the damages were smaller than a plaintiff originally
sought or that the fee award might, in fact, be more than the
plaintiff's recovery.” Id.
Defendants next argue that the hourly rate of $395.00 sought
by the Plaintiff is too high for the work performed in this
case. The Court agrees.
We have defined a reasonable hourly rate as one that is
derived from the market rate for the services rendered. We
presume that an attorney's actual billing rate for
similar litigation is appropriate to use as the market rate.
The fee applicant bears the burden of producing satisfactory
evidence-in addition to the attorney's own
affidavits-that the requested rates are in line with those
prevailing in the community.
Pickett v. Sheridan Health Care Ctr., 664 F.3d 632,
639 (7th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). While Duff has
submitted evidence that $395.00 is the hourly rate he charges
his clients who pay him for his work (as opposed to those
whose fees are paid by a defendant), only one of the examples
he gives involves an FDCPA case. Duff has pointed to no case
in which he (or any lawyer of similar experience) was
actually awarded $395.00 per hour by a judge in this district
for an FDCPA case. Further, while Duff avers that he has
“twenty-two years of litigation experience and
seventeen years of experience litigating consumer law cases,
” Dkt. No. 20-1 at 2 ¶ 7, it appears that he has
been regularly litigating FDCPA cases since the end of 2008,
which is less than ten years ago. Cf. Gastineau v.
Wright, 592 F.3d 747 (7th Cir. 2010) (noting that that
case-in which Duff appeared in June 2007-was only Duff's
second FDCPA case and that his first case resulted in default
judgment). Thus, while the Plaintiff has submitted an
affidavit from attorney Irwin Levine in which he opines that
$395.00 is a reasonable hourly rate “in matters of this
nature” given Duff's “seasoning and
experience, ” it appears that that opinion is based on
Duff's seventeen years of experience in consumer law, not
his ten years of experience regularly litigating FDCPA cases.
Court finds that a reasonable hourly rate in this legal
market in a relatively straightforward FDCPA case, like this
one,  for an attorney with Duff's level of
experience with FDCPA cases is $300.00. This is comparable to
recent awards made in this district. See, e.g., Reynolds
v. EOS CCA, 2016 WL 6876575 (S.D. Ind. Nov. 22, 2016)
and Reed v. EOS CCA, 2016 WL 6876573 (S.D. Ind. Nov.
22, 2016) (awarding $275 hourly rate for attorney John
Steinkamp, who has represented plaintiffs in over 700 FDCPA
cases since 2009); Swike v. Med-1 Sols., LLC, No.
1:17-CV-1503-JMS-MPB, 2018 WL 2126520, at *1 (S.D. Ind. May
9, 2018) (awarding $295 hourly rate in FDCPA case for
associate practicing since 2010).
the Defendants take issue with several of the entries in
Duff's billing records. While the Court disagrees with
the Defendants' characterization of certain tasks as
administrative, the Court has carefully reviewed the records
and finds that several entries should be disallowed or
reduced. First, Duff billed .9 hour for drafting and filing
the first amended complaint. The Court will disallow this
time, inasmuch as there does not appear to be any reason why
the allegations added to in the amended complaint could not
have been included in the original complaint, which had been
filed only fifteen days earlier. Second, Duff billed .4 hour
for drafting a representation agreement. In light of Duff s
experience in these types of cases, the Court finds that to
be an excessive amount of time, inasmuch as the task almost
certainly involved simply editing Duffs standard agreement.
The Court reduces that entry to .2 hour. Fourth, Duff billed
.2 hour for preparing and filing his notice of appearance; .1
hour was sufficient time for that task. Fifth, Duff billed .2
hours to “receive and study order setting initial
pretrial conference.” That order was three pages long,
including the caption and signature block; .1 hour was
sufficient time for reviewing it. Finally, the Court
disallows the .5 hour billed by Duff for seeking an extension
of time to file his reply in support of the instant motion.
Accordingly, the Court will reduce the hours compensated by
reasons set forth above, the motion for attorney fees is
GRANTED to the following extent: Plaintiff
is awarded fees in the amount of $4, 980.00.