Judge Calls Out Plaintiff’s Attorney for ‘Assault’ on Fees Ruling in FDCPA Case

A District Court judge had some harsh words for a plaintiff’s attorney’s “assault” on a magistrate judge’s report lowering the fee amount in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, but raised the amount recommended by the magistrate judge anyway to include the time spent litigating the fee award portion of the case, although it was still well below the initial amount sought by the plaintiff.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Adonizio v. Credit Control Services can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff accepted an offer of judgment of $1,001 plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs in an “acrimonious” FDCPA case after he accused the defendant of violating the FDCPA and Florida state law by sending collection letters for an unpaid medical debt and reporting that debt to the credit reporting agencies even though the plaintiff said he apparently paid the bill. After a mediation session and two rejected offers of judgment, the plaintiff finally accepted an offer and then the parties moved on to the attorney’s fees portion of the case.

The plaintiff sought $39,990 in fees and nearly $1,500 in costs. The case was referred to a magistrate judge, who recommended that the attorney’s fees be reduced to $6,000. The magistrate judge’s decision hinged on the plaintiff selling his house four or five months after the suit was filed. The reason the suit was filed was because the negative item on the plaintiff’s credit report prevented him from obtaining a favorable rate on a mortgage and mortgage insurance. The plaintiff did not disclose this development until months later, even though that may have been the point where damages stopped accruing in the case. The plaintiff’s failure to share the information meant he was not entitled to be compensated for the fees incurred as a result of unnecessary proceedings, the magistrate judge ruled.

The plaintiff objected to the report, launching what Judge John Antoon II of the District Court for the Middle District of Florida called a “semantic attack” on the report, and Judge Antoon called out the plaintiff for saying the recommendation of the magistrate judge was “wholly unacceptable” and for repeated use of the word “fabricate.”

Judge Antoon ultimately awarded $8,895 to the plaintiff for attorney’s fees and costs.

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