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Judge Cuts Plaintiff’s Attorney Fees Request by 45% in FDCPA Settlement

A federal judge in Minnesota has pretty much split the difference between requests from a plaintiff and defendant in awarding attorney’s fees for a settled case involving allegations that a debt buyer and debt collector violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

A copy of the ruling in Heroux v. Callidus Portfolio Management and Messerli & Kramer can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff had requested $41,720 in attorney’s fees while the defendant had countered with $5,000. Judge Hildy Bowbeer of the District Court for the District of Minnesota ultimately awarded $22,946 in fees and $400 in costs to the plaintiff’s attorneys, ruling the plaintiff’s request was excessive, given his experience in FDCPA litigation.

The defendants had obtained a judgment against the plaintiff, who subsequently sued, alleging the defendants violated the FDCPA by serving him with a document entitled “Plaintiff’s First Set of Interlocking Discovery.” The plaintiff did not respond to the discovery.

Ultimately, the sides decided to settle the case, with the defendant paying the plaintiff $1,500 and agreeing to cover the plaintiff’s attorney fees. The two sides were unable to reach an agreement on how much the plaintiff’s attorneys should be paid and sought Judge Bowbeer’s help in reaching a solution.

Judge Bowbeer first agreed that the plaintiff’s attorneys request to bill at a rate of $400 per hour was reasonable, given his experience and other market factors.

The judge then sided with the defendant in agreeing that a reduction in number of hours billed was required. The defendant also tried to argue for a reduction in fees because of the actual outcome of the case — five of the original six counts in the complaint were dismissed and the sixth resulted in only a $1,500 settlement.

In reviewing the submission from the plaintiff’s attorney, Judge Bowbeer decided to reduce the number of hours billed by 45%, “primarily on account of the excessive hours spent on the response to the motion for judgment on the pleadings,” she wrote.

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