Judge Grants $65k in Fees For Defendants in FDCPA Case

A District Court judge in Oregon has awarded the defendants in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case more than $65,000 in fees and costs — about 40% of what was being sought — ruling that the plaintiff’s claims in her lawsuit were “clearly untenable” from the outset of the case.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Bjornsdotter v. Suttell & Hammer, P.S. and Patrick Layman can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff filed suit alleging the defendants had violated the FDCPA by falsely alleging a creditor was entitled to a judgment on the account, that the defendants were unjustly enriched, and that the defendants were wrong for trying to collect a $65 process service fee.

The first two claims were barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and a District Court judge granted a motion for summary judgment filed by the defendants because the plaintiff failed to state a claim.

Subsequently, the defendants filed a motion to recover its fees and costs. The judge granted the defendant’s request to recover $1,566.55 in costs and then dealt with the request for $159,577.50 in attorney’s fees.

Judge Michael McShane of the District Court for the District of Oregon cut the rate and the amount of hours worked by the two attorneys on the case, determining that their hourly rate should be in the 75th percentile instead of the 95th percentile, which is where their fee request lined up. As well, Judge McShane ruled that the defendants’ attorneys did not have to spend the nearly 400 hours they said they worked in defeating the plaintiff’s lawsuit. “The case involved straightforward issues and most of the facts were previously litigated in state court,” Judge McShane wrote. “It should have been relatively easy to establish grounds for dismissal and/or summary judgment.”

The plaintiffs have filed a notice of appeal on the award of fees and costs with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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