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Payne v. Allied Interstate, Inc.

United States District Court, Second Circuit

October 9, 2013

ORLAND PAYNE, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLIED INTERSTATE, INC., Defendant.

DECISION & ORDER

MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Orland Payne ("Payne" or "Mr. Payne") brought the instant action pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, ("the Act" or "FDCPA") codified at 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. contending that the defendant Allied Interstate, Inc., ("Allied") violated several provisions of the FDCPA by improperly attempting to collect a debt that he did not owe. Approximately six months after the Complaint was filed, and prior to any substantive motions being filed or discovery taking place, plaintiff accepted an Offer of Judgment made by the defendant in the amount of $1, 000.00. Thereafter, counsel for the plaintiff filed a motion for fees and costs seeking $5, 895.50 in compensation for prosecuting this action on behalf of the plaintiff.

Defendant opposes the plaintiff's motion for fees on grounds that the amount sought by the plaintiff is grossly excessive and not justified by the amount of work performed by counsel, or the result obtained for the plaintiff. Specifically, the defendant contends that the hourly rates of compensation proposed by the plaintiff are excessive in light of hourly rates approved by courts in similar actions, and that the amount of time allegedly spent by plaintiff's counsel prosecuting this action is inflated.

For the reasons set forth below, I grant in-part and deny inpart plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees and costs, and award plaintiff a total of $1, 880.00 in fees and costs.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Orland Payne is a resident of Farmington, New York. According to the Complaint filed in this action, defendant Allied, a debt collector, attempted to collect a debt from Payne related to a credit card. Plaintiff contends that he did not owe any debt with respect to the credit card, and that Allied used illegal tactics in attempting to collect the non-existent debt from him including making harassing phone calls, and threatening to sue him. Less than two months after the Complaint was filed, the defendant appeared in this action, and thereafter, slightly more than four months after defendant appeared, it made an offer of judgment to the plaintiff in the amount of $1, 000.00, which the plaintiff accepted. During the pendency of the action prior to plaintiff's acceptance of the offer of judgment, no substantive motions were filed, and no discovery took place.

Following plaintiff's acceptance of the Offer of Judgment, the parties were unable to agree on the amount of attorneys' fees that would fairly and adequately compensate plaintiff's counsel, and plaintiff's counsel has now moved for an award of attorneys' fees in the amount of $5, 895.50.

DISCUSSION

A. Standard for determining Attorneys' Fees

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act provides that a prevailing party alleging a violation of the Act may recover reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3); Ryan v. Allied Interstate, Inc. , 882 F.Supp.2d 628, 630 (S.D.N.Y., 2012). An appropriate starting place for a court in making an award of reasonable attorneys' fees is the consideration of the "number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate." Hensley v. Eckerhart , 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). This calculation, which provides the court with an objective basis "to make an initial estimate of the value of the lawyer's services, " is commonly referred to as the "lodestar." Id .; City of Riverside v. Rivera , 477 U.S. 561, 568 (1986). Although the lodestar is useful to make an initial calculation of the fair and reasonable value of an attorney's services, it is not the sole factor in determining the appropriate amount of an attorneys' fee award. Once the court has determined the lodestar, it must evaluate that figure in light of other circumstances present in the case. See Hensley, supra. One of the most critical factors to be evaluated is the extent of success achieved. Hensley , 461 U.S. at 436.

In making an application for fees, the attorney seeking an award of fees is required to substantiate his request by submitting documentation supporting the hours expended on the litigation and the hourly rate requested. Hours that are not "reasonably expended" must be excluded from consideration. Moreover, the court must adjust the attorney's proposed lodestar if the court determines that the requested hourly fee is not reasonable. See Blum v. Stentson , 465 U.S. 886 (1984). In making this determination, the court must consider the "prevailing rates in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation." Id.

After a careful review of the application submitted by plaintiff's counsel, and consideration of the defendant's opposition to the plaintiff's fee application, I make the following findings and conclusions with respect to the ...


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