Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Attorneys Fees may be reduced by results

The U.S. District Court for Ohio just decided Maddox v The Martin Company, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42563. The Defendant, while pursuing the Plaintiff for a debt, apparently disclosed the Plaintiff’s social security number to the defendant’s nefarious niece. Ms. Maddox sued the Martin company under various Consumer Protection theories including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). The FDCPA allows for the recovery of attorney fees to a prevailing plaintiff. In this case, the Plaintiff prevailed only upon her theory that the Defendant violated the FDCPA and was awarded damages of $500.00. However, Plaintiff’s counsel sought attorney fees of $16,708.50, based upon an hourly rate of $235 and 71.1 hours. The court took a rather dim view of this request in light of the recovery.
What is interesting about this case is that the award of attorney fees is not unbridled and without limitations. While the court will multiply a reasonable hourly rate by reasonable hours invested in the case, the attorney fees may be reduced in light of the result obtained by the Plaintiff.
The court noted that since Plaintiff’s counsel did not file affidavits from other attorneys attesting to the reasonableness of the $235 hourly rate, that $150 was probably a more reasonable rate. The court also noted that since Plaintiff’s other claims failed in the court, that Plaintiff’s counsel should not be compensated for those hours either. The court finally concluded that $3,500 was a reasonable fee to award to Plaintiff’s counsel in this case.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys should be aware that while the recovery of attorneys fees in FDCPA litigation is tantalizingly authorized by the statute, that some courts appear to take a hard line view of these fees. In some jurisdictions, courts are more liberal in assessing attorneys fees for pro consumer litigation such as FDCPA claims present. However, this case, Maddox v The Martin Company, is a reminder that the FDCPA is not an open checkbook to attorney fees.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 3rd, 2006 and is filed under Debt Collection Laws - Federal . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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