A Magistrate Court judge in Wisconsin has cut the amount sought by plaintiff’s attorneys who were awarded summary judgment in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case by nearly two-thirds, lowering both the hourly rate and the number of hours awarded that were submitted by the plaintiff.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Spuhler v. State Collection Service can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiffs filed an FDCPA suit against the defendant, arguing that a letter that was sent to the plaintiff improperly attempted to collect interest, failed to note that interest was accruing, and failed to separate the principal from the interest in the amount due. The defendant was awarded summary judgment on two of the counts, but the plaintiff was awarded summary judgment on the count that the letter failed to indicate that interest was accruing.
The three plaintiff’s attorneys and two support staff submitted an estimate of $210,083.45, which Judge Nancy Joseph of the District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin lowered to $80,000. The judge found the plaintiffs engaged in “block billing,” and reduced the number of requested hours submitted by the plaintiff’s attorneys.
After determining the lodestar at $108,640.50, Judge Joseph further reduced the award to $80,000, ruling that the experience of the plaintiff’s attorneys should have worked in their favor to keep costs down, not the other way around.
“Given that Attorneys Lyons and DeLadurantey are experienced attorneys specializing in creditor rights litigation and even accounting for the procedural twists in this case, it should not have taken them over $200,000.00 to litigate this FDCPA case,”Judge Joseph wrote. “I find that a downward adjustment is warranted given counsels’ experience, the nature of this litigation, and the arguments made.”