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Court Awards $63,000 in Legal Fees After Plaintiff Wins $200 in FDCPA Trial

A federal judge in Illinois has awarded more than $60,000 in legal fees to the attorneys who represented a plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging a collection law firm violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

The suit had been stayed for more than a year while a separate suit against the same defendants was being argued before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Once the separate suit was ruled on in July, the stay in this suit was lifted and a petition to award legal fees was filed by the plaintiff.

A copy of the most recent ruling can be viewed by clicking here.

The plaintiff, Iwona Portalatin, had sued the defendant, Blatt, Hasenmiller, Leibsker & Moore, after the firm had filed a s suit against Portalatin. The suit filed against Portalatin was filed in the the Circuit Court of Cook County’s First Municipal District instead of the Fourth Municipal District, which is where Portalatin lived. A summary judgment against Blatt was awarded  even though the defendant argued it had made a “bona fide error.” A jury awarded $200 in damages to Portalatin. Blatt then filed a notice of appeal. The appeal was stayed pending a resolution in the separate case.

Once the separate case was resolved, Portalatin’s lawyers filed for an award for legal fees and expenses. Their original request was for more than $96,000, based on the number of hours worked and the hourly fees charged by each of the three attorneys who worked on the case.

While Blatt argued that the legal fees were excessive, the judge in this case noted that Blatt had the opportunity to settle and chose not to, and that Blatt filed a “flurry” of motions prior to the start of the trial that required a response from Portalatin’s attorneys. The judge did question the amount of time that the trial attorney spent on the case, and ruled that he be awarded about half of what he was asking for.

Blatt has the opportunity to appeal the ruling to the Seventh Circuit, should it so choose.


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