The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has denied a plaintiff’s appeal for a larger attorney fee award in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case that was settled.
The non-precedential ruling in the case of Scanno v. F.H. Cann & Associates, Inc., can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff had been seeking to recover $27,233 in attorney’s fees after a lawsuit against the defendant was settled, but a Magistrate Judge lowered the award to $10,418. The District Court adopted the Magistrate Court’s report, determining that an earlier rejection of a similar settlement offer did not entitle it to a larger award months later.
The original lawsuit was filed in September 2016. In June 2017, the defendant offered to settle the case for $2,500, which included $1,000 for the plaintiff and also included attorney’s fees. The offer was rejected. Three months later, the settlement offer was increased to $4,000, again including attorney’s fees, and the plaintiff rejected that as well. The plaintiff countered that attorney’s fees at that point had reached $17,100 because it was opposing a motion to amend from the defendant and researching how to defend against a motion to compel arbitration. Finally, a few days later, a settlement was reached where the plaintiff received $1,000 and both sides agreed that a motion for reasonable attorney’s fees could be submitted.
Because the plaintiff ultimately accepted a settlement that was just as much as was offered to her three months earlier, the District Court did not abuse its discretion in lowering the amount award to the plaintiff’s attorneys, the Appeals Court ruled.
“Scanno’s rejection of the June 2017 settlement offer appears to have been driven primarily by counsel’s independent belief that the offer did not account for all attorney’s fees incurred since the commencement of the litigation,” the Appeals Court wrote. “Even considering that Scanno’s counsel brought this suit as a class action, the case was ultimately settled on an individual basis with no change in Scanno’s recovery from the June 2017 settlement offer.”