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Lucille Ryan v. Allied Interstate

August 9, 2012

LUCILLE RYAN, PLAINTIFF, :
v.
ALLIED INTERSTATE, INC., DEFENDANT. MEAGAN J. HENNING, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALLIED INTERSTATE, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Andrew J. Peck, United States Magistrate Judge:

OPINION AND ORDER

Presently before the Court are the motions of plaintiffs Lucille Ryan and Meagan Henning for attorneys' fees and costs from defendant Allied Interstate, Inc., pursuant to plaintiffs' acceptance of Allied's Offers of Judgment and 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3), which allows successful plaintiffs to recover reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. (Ryan Dkt. No. 20 & Henning Dkt. No. 15: Notices of Motion; Ryan Dkt. No. 21: Ryan Br. at 1; Henning Dkt. No. 16: Henning Br. at 1.)

Ryan's complaint alleged that Allied violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") by "[h]arassing, oppressing or abusing Plaintiff . . . by calling Plaintiff repetitively" and "[u]sing unfair or unconscionable means to collect" a disputed debt. (Ryan Dkt. No. 1: Ryan Compl. ¶ 19.) Henning's complaint alleged that Allied violated the FDCPA by "repeatedly plac[ing] harassing debt collection calls to Plaintiff's cellular and work telephones," "falsely [telling] Plainitff that they were calling from the Federal Government," and "reveal[ing] Plaintiff's social security number" to someone at Henning's place of work while attempting to collect a disputed debt. (Henning Dkt. No. 1: Henning Compl. ¶¶ 18, 27, 32.) Both complaints sought statutory damages of $1,000 plus reasonable attorneys' fees. (Ryan & Henning Compls. Wherefore ¶¶ b, c.)

Ryan and Henning accepted Allied's Rule 68 Offers of Judgment to each plaintiff, which provided:

Defendant will allow judgment to be entered against it in the amount of Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), plus reasonable costs and attorneys' fees in an amount mutually agreed upon by the parties, or as determined by the Court if the parties cannot reach an agreement. (Ryan Dkt. No. 15 & Henning Dkt. No. 12: Notices of Acceptance of Offers of Judgment.)

The parties failed to reach agreement on the amount of attorneys' fees and costs. (Ryan Br. at 4; Henning Br. at 4.) Ryan seeks $6,964.00 for attorneys' fees and costs. (Ryan Br. at 5.) Henning seeks $7,938.56 for attorney's fees and costs. (Henning Br. at 4.) The parties have agreed to decision of this case by a Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Ryan Dkt. No. 14 & Henning Dkt. No. 11: § 636(c) Consent.)

For the reasons set forth below, the Court awards Ryan $2,795.00 in attorneys' fees and $377.06 in costs, and awards Henning $3,342.50 in attorneys' fees and $350.00 in costs.

ANALYSIS

The FDCPA provides for recovery of reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3); accord, e.g., Jacobson v. Healthcare Fin. Servs., Inc., 516 F.3d 85, 95 (2d Cir. 2008) ("The FDCPA provides for fee-shifting as a matter of course to successful plaintiffs . . . ."); Woods v. Sieger, Ross & Aguire, LLC, 11 Civ. 5698, 2012 WL 1811628 at *5 (S.D.N.Y. May 18, 2012).

The Lodestar Method of Determining Reasonable Attorneys' Fees As the fee applicant, plaintiffs "bear[] the burden of documenting the hours reasonably spent by counsel, and the reasonableness of the hourly rates claimed." Gen. Elec. Co. v. Compagnie Euralair, S.A., 96 Civ. 0884, 1997 WL 397627 at *4 (S.D.N.Y. July 3, 1997) (Scheindlin, D.J. & Peck, M.J.).*fn1

Traditionally, "[i]n determining a fee award, the typical starting point is the so-called lodestar amount, that is 'the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.'" Healey v. Leavitt, 485 F.3d 63, 71 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. at 433, 103 S. Ct. at 1939).*fn2 Particularly in awarding statutory attorneys' fees, "[t]he product of reasonable hours times a reasonable rate does not end the inquiry. There remain other considerations that may lead the district court to adjust the fee upward or downward." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. at 434, 103 S. Ct. at 1940; see also, e.g., Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Ass'n v. Cnty. of Albany, 522 F.3d 182, 186 (2d Cir. 2008) ("[T]he lodestar method involved two steps: (1) the lodestar calculation; and (2) adjustment of the lodestar based on case-specific considerations.").

In April 2010, the Supreme Court revisited the issue of attorneys' fees and approved of the "lodestar" approach over the more discretionary approach of Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974), holding:

Although the lodestar method is not perfect, it has several important virtues. First, in accordance with our understanding of the aim of fee-shifting statutes, the lodestar looks to "the prevailing market rates in the relevant community." Developed after the practice of hourly billing had become widespread, the lodestar method produces an award that roughly approximates the fee that the prevailing attorney would have received if he or she had been representing a paying client who was billed by the hour in a comparable case. Second, the lodestar method is readily administrable, and unlike the Johnson approach, the lodestar calculation is "objective," and thus cabins the discretion of trial judges, permits meaningful judicial review, and produces reasonably predictable results.

III Our prior decisions concerning the federal fee-shifting statutes have established six important rules that lead to our decision in this case.

First, a "reasonable" fee is a fee that is sufficient to induce a capable attorney to undertake the representation of a ...


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