Appeals Court Denies Defendant’s Attempt to Reduce Attorney Fee Award in FDCPA Case

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has denied a collection agency’s appeal of the attorney’s fees awarded to plaintiff’s counsel by a District Court judge in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, rejecting a number of arguments made by the agency why the award should be reduced.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Hanrahan v. Statewide Collection can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff sued the defendant for allegedly violating the FDCPA and the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The plaintiff was represented by a pair of attorneys who were not initially admitted to practice before the court, but were later admitted pro hac vice. The defendant offered to settle the case and the plaintiff accepted the terms of the settlement. The plaintiff submitted a motion seeking $62,846.25 in attorney’s fees and costs, an amount the defendant objected to, arguing that some of the hours were redundant or excessive, spent on ministerial tasks, or inadequately documented. Agreeing with some of the defendant’s arguments, a District Court judge awarded the plaintiff $53,604 in attorney’s fees.

The defendant appealed the ruling, arguing that the plaintiff should not be awarded any legal fees once the settlement offer was accepted and that the hours before the attorneys were accepted pro hac vice should not be included, among others. But the Ninth Circuit found all of the defendant’s arguments “unavailing” and ruled the District Court judge did not abuse his discretion.

“Although Hanrahan’s attorneys worked on the case for some time before applying for admission, the district court observed that ‘there is no reason to believe they would not have been admitted ‘as a matter of course’ had they applied at the outset of litigation,’ and Statewide does not argue otherwise,” the Appeals Court wrote.

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