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Sean Alexander v. Nco Financial Systems

June 16, 2011

SEAN ALEXANDER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NCO FINANCIAL SYSTEMS, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Slomsky, J.

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is a Petition for Attorney's Fees filed by Plaintiff Sean Alexander. (Doc. No. 5.) Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d) and 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681n and 1681o, Plaintiff petitions the Court for an award of attorney's fees and costs in the amount of $5,422. (Id.) Defendant NCO Financial Systems, Inc. opposes Plaintiff's calculation of fees and costs and contends that the proper award is $2,300. (Doc. No. 6 at 3, 12.) For reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Petition and award attorney's fees and costs in the amount of $3,112.80.*fn1

II. BACKGROUND

On January 21, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging that Defendant violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDPCA"), 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq., when it permitted its authorized agents to repeatedly harass Plaintiff in telephone calls regarding collection of a debt.(Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 1, 17-26.)On February 11, 2011, Defendant executed a waiver of service, which was filed with the court on February 14, 2011. (Doc. No. 2.) Thereafter, on March 16, 2011, Defendant served on Plaintiff an Offer of Judgment.*fn2 (See Certificate of Service, Doc. No. 3 at 3.)On March 30, 2011, Plaintiff accepted the Offer of Judgment and filed the Judgment with the Court. (Doc. No. 3.)

The Offer of Judgment provides that the parties agree that "Judgment shall be entered against [Defendant] NCO for statutory and actual damages in the total amount of $1,000for NCO's alleged violations of the [FDCPA]."(Doc. No. 3 ¶ 3.) The $1,000 amount represents the maximum damages to which Plaintiff is entitled under the FDCPA. 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3).

Further, the Offer of Judgment provides as follows:

The Judgment entered shall also include an amount for reasonable costs and attorney's fees accrued through the date of this Offer of Judgment. Reasonable costs and attorney's fees are to be agreed upon by the parties, or, if the parties are unable to agree, to be determined by the Court on application by Plaintiff's counsel subject to the limitation that attorney's fees and costs are cut off as of the date of this Offer of Judgment.

(Doc. No. 3 ¶ 4.)

The parties have been unable to agree on what constitutes reasonable attorney's fees and costs in this case. As a result, on April 13, 2011, Plaintiff filed the Petition for Attorney's Fees and Costs now before the Court. (Doc. No. 5.) In the Petition, Plaintiff requests $5,422 in attorney's fees and costs.*fn3 Plaintiff requests an award of costs in the amount of $350. This amount is the cost of filing the Complaint. (Doc. No. 5-1 at 3; Doc. No. 5-3 at 2.) Plaintiff requests an award of fees for 16.1 hours*fn4 of work performed by attorneys, paralegals, and information technology ("IT") support staff from October 8, 2010 to April 13, 2011. (See Doc. No. 5-3.) The hourly rate requested by each attorney, paralegal, or IT professional varies depending upon their qualifications and experience. (Doc. No. 5-1 at 2-3.)*fn5

On April 27, 2011, Defendant filed a Response in Opposition to the Petition for Attorney's Fees. (Doc. No. 6.) Defendant does not dispute that Plaintiff is entitled to $350 for the cost of filing the Complaint. Further, Defendant acknowledges that Plaintiff is entitled to reasonable attorney's fees; it simply disputes what is "reasonable." According to Defendant, Plaintiff is entitled to attorney's fees and costs in the amount of $2,300. This amount represents the total amount requested by Plaintiff less: (1) the amount attributable to work performed after the date of the Offer of Judgment (5.4 hours, total value of work - $1,741); (2) the amount by which counsel and staff for Plaintiff overcharge for services ($55 to $115 per hour depending upon the individual performing the work); and (3) the amount which constitutes fees from duplicative or administrative work (3.7 hours, total value of work - $734.50).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

Both parties agree that Plaintiff is entitled to reasonable attorney's fees and costs. Pursuant to the FDCPA, a prevailing plaintiff is entitled to "the costs of the action, together with a reasonable attorney's fee as determined by the court." 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(3). The United States Supreme Court has explained how the initial calculation of an award of attorney's fees is made:

The most useful starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate. The calculation provides an objective basis on which to make an initial estimate of the value of the lawyer's services.

Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). The calculation produces what is referred to as the lodestar amount. See Damian J. v. Sch. Dist. of ...


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