A District Court judge in Georgia has reduced the amount of attorney’s fees and costs by 85%, after a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case was settled for a little over $1,000, ruling that the $100,000 sought by the plaintiff was “excessive.”
A copy of the ruling in the case of Glover v. I.C. Systems can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff received a collection letter that listed unpaid principal of $455.13 and a collection charge of $113.78. The plaintiff’s lawyer sent a “validation demand” letter to the defendant. In responding to the demand, the defendant verified that the plaintiff owed $455.18 in principal, but changed the collection charge to $96.28.
The plaintiff’s attorney then demanded $10,000, arguing that the defendant violated “several consumer protection laws” when it lowered the collection charge. The defendant countered with an offer of $2,000, which was rejected. The plaintiff then filed suit, alleging the letter violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and other statutes. Three depositions were conducted during the 10-month litigation, at which point the plaintiff settled for $1,000. The plaintiff then filed the request for more than $100,000 in attorney’s fees and costs.
After lowering the hourly rate for the plaintiff’s lawyers to $275 from $325, Judge Tilman Self then started looking at the hours the lawyers said they worked. Judge Self choose to list a number of examples where he deemed the amount of hours the plaintiff’s attorneys said they worked to be “excessive.”
“… the Court finds that — while Plaintiff’s counsel achieved a positive
result for their client — the time billed is flatly excessive,” he wrote. “Simply put, it is patently unreasonable for Plaintiff’s attorneys, all experienced in this type of action, to devote so much time to a case with no dispositive motions, normal (and somewhat limited) discovery, and an accepted settlement offer within 10-months. Likewise, Plaintiff hasn’t shown that the case was remotely factually or legally complex.”
Judge Self then applied an 85% reduction in the amount of hours worked, setting it at 46.6 from the 310.4 that were originally requested.