Judge Sanctions Plaintiff’s Attorney For Prolonging Litigation

A District Court judge in Minnesota has called out a plaintiff’s attorney for engaging “in conduct designed to prolong this litigation and augment” a plaintiff’s recovery after an offer of judgment had been accepted, and limited the amount of attorney’s fees to be awarded to the plaintiff to what was incurred when the offer was accepted, while also granting the defense’s motion for attorneys’ fees and costs.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Ricketson v. Advantage Collection Professionals can be accessed by clicking here.

After being accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, in which the plaintiff was seeking $1,000 in statutory damages as well as attorneys’ fees, the defendant offered to resolve the matter for $1,001 plus reasonable attorneys’ fees. The records of the plaintiff’s attorney indicate that he had incurred $2,220 in fees up to the point where the offer was accepted.

At this point, the plaintiff’s attorney engaged in conduct that he would later describe to be “petty,” such as declining to provide an outline of his time and expenses when requested and requiring that production of his records be made in writing, not via email. The plaintiff’s attorney then offered to settle the attorney fees portion for $10,000. After being offered $1,447.50 by the defendant, the plaintiff’s attorney responded with an offer of $9,001.

After examining the amount of work that went into the case before the offer was accepted and then after, Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright of the District Court for the District of Minnesota did not mince her words.

“The record overwhelmingly demonstrates that, after [the plaintiff] accepted ACP’s Rule 68 offer of judgment, [the plaintiff’s attorney] engaged in conduct designed to prolong this litigation and augment [his] recovery,” Judge Wright wrote. “And the additional thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees [the plaintiff’s attorney] billed to his client and sought to recover from ACP were purely a windfall.”

By prolonging the case for “several months” and forcing the Court to “expend unnecessary time and resources,” Judge Wright then granted the defendant’s motion for attorneys’ fees and costs, asking the defendant to file a supplemental motion in support of its request for reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

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