A District Court judge in Maryland has partially granted a defendant’s motion for attorneys’ fees and costs, awarding nearly $15,000 to the defendants who were sued by the relative of a frequent filer for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Alston v. Orion Portfolio Services can be accessed by clicking here.
The defendants had been seeking nearly $20,000 from the plaintiff, but the judge reduced the award by about 25% because the plaintiff claimed he would be unable to pay any attorneys’ fees and costs because of his “precarious financial situation.”
The plaintiff filed the lawsuit, alleging the defendants violated the FDCPA and the Fair Credit Reporting Act by trying to collect $1,391 to cover unreturned television equipment and fees. The plaintiff is the brother of Thomas Alston, “a non-attorney who has been both a plaintiff in many of these fair debt collection lawsuits as well as the de facto drafter of several of them,” according to the judge’s ruling. The plaintiff initially denied that his brother was involved in this case, but the brother, answering questions unsworn from the judge during a hearing, said he “may have had a hand” in preparing the pleadings. The judge ultimately granted a motion to dismiss the case from the defendant, and then directed the defendant to file a motion for attorneys’ fees and costs.
The plaintiff argued against having to pay any attorneys’ fees or costs because the judge did not rule he acted in bad faith and “that his weak financial condition means that he is unable to pay the full amount of attorneys’ fees and costs, and that, in any event, he has been sufficiently deterred from pursuing such litigation in the future.”
In declaring this a “classic nuisance suit,” the judge awarded the defendants $14,876.76 in attorneys’ fees and costs.