A District Court judge in New Jersey has granted a plaintiff’s motion for more than $71,000 in attorney’s fees — exactly what the plaintiff was asking for — after the plaintiff agreed to an offer of judgment in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Rhee v. Client Services can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff filed a class action after receiving a collection letter from the defendant. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted on all counts but one. The defendant made an offer of judgment, to which the plaintiff did not respond. The plaintiff instead filed a motion to certify a class in the case. That motion was terminated by the judge for issues related to discovery disputes. Before a second motion to certify a class could be filed, the defendant made another offer of judgment, which was identical to the first. This offer was accepted, awarding the plaintiff $1,001 and reasonable attorney fees.
The plaintiff submitted a motion seeking to recover more than $71,000 in attorney’s fees.
The defendant made several arguments, each of which was rejected by Judge John Michael Vazquez of the District Court for the District of New Jersey. The defendant, for example, argued that no attorney’s fees should be paid from the time after the first offer of judgment was made, because it was identical to the second offer. But the plaintiff explained that the Supreme Court ruling in TransUnion v. Ramirez changed his strategy and entitled his attorneys to recover fees that were incurred after the first offer of judgment was made.
The defendant also attempted to argue that this was not a successful action because the plaintiff only recovered $1 more than was statutorily allowed, but Judge Vazquez said the law precluded him from punishing the plaintiff for accepting an offer of judgment.