Judge Lowers Attorney’s Fees by 50% in FDCPA Case

A District Court judge in Missouri has lowered the attorney’s fees awarded in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case by 50%, ruling that a “hyper-technical” violation of the statute that led a jury to award the plaintiff $200 in damages was fair and reasonable.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Saxerud v. T-H Professional & Medical Collections can be accessed by clicking here.

Ultimately, Judge John A. Ross of the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri awarded $15,102.50 in attorneys’ fees and $1,700.65 in costs, after the plaintiff’s attorneys filed a motion seeking $30,205. This particular case ended up in trial this past August after the plaintiff claimed to have received a call from the defendant to collect on an unpaid medical debt. During the call, the defendant was alleged to have said that the debt had “hit the credit bureaus” when it fact it had not yet been reported.

A jury awarded the plaintiff $0 in actual damages and $200 in statutory damages.

While Judge Ross ruled that the hourly rate submitted by the plaintiff’s attorneys was reasonable, he did take some issue with the fact that two attorneys were present at the trial, especially “considering the exceptionally simple nature of the case.”

Looking at “the modest damages obtained,” the “hyper-technical FDCPA violation at issue,” and the “simplicity of this case,” Judge Ross opted to reduce the attorney’s fee award by 50%, rejecting the defendant’s request for a 75% reduction.

The defendant attempted to argue that the plaintiff was not entitled to any attorney’s fees or costs given the “de minimis” victory achieved during the trial, but Judge Ross noted that the gap between what the plaintiff recovers and how much in attorney’s fees is awarded “does not affect this Court’s determination of whether Plaintiff brought a successful action.”

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