A California appeals court has upheld the attorney fees award of nearly $50,000 granted to a debt collector that was accused of interfering in the attorney-client relationship between the plaintiff and a client it represented in a collection lawsuit the defendant filed against the client, after the defendant filed an anti-SLAPP motion.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Spielbauer v. Midland Funding can be accessed by clicking here.
SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation and anti-SLAPP motions are filed by defendants as a means of obtaining early dismissals of meritless lawsuits.
After being sued, the defendant filed an anti-SLAPP motion, which the court granted. It then filed a motion for $53,346 in legal fees, which the court reduced to $49,846. The plaintiff appealed that ruling.
The plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in excluding the declaration of its expert on the excessiveness of the fees sought by the defendant, that some of the specific time entries were inflated and excessive, and that the trial court should have taken notice of a consent decree in an unrelated matter that substantiated its position that the fee request was inflated and unreasonable.
The Appeals Court rejected each of the arguments, after labeling the plaintiff’s opening brief as “somewhat rambling and disjointed.”
The trial court judge determined that the fee request from the defendant was “kind of in the middling range in terms of fee requests” that he had seen for anti-SLAPP motions, an event that he had reviewed “many” times in different cases. The amount sought by the defendant “are not exorbitant for the efforts made,” the trial court judge wrote.
“Spielbauer makes other arguments that are far afield and either have no bearing on the reasonableness of the attorney fee award (such as that its appeal from the underlying anti-SLAPP ruling, which was dismissed as untimely, was meritorious) or misperceive the standard of review (such as an attack on the credibility of Midland’s counsel),” the Appeals Court wrote. “These arguments deserve no comment other than to say they are entirely meritless.”