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Murphy v. Receivable Management Services Corp.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 7, 2013

GREGORY MURPHY, Plaintiff,
v.
THE RECEIVABLE MANAGEMENT SERVICES CORPORATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

LAWRENCE F. STENGEL, District Judge.

Gregory Murphy filed this lawsuit on July 2, 2012, against The Receivable Management Services Corporation (Receivable). He alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq . On August 31, 2012, Receivable made an offer of judgment, which Murphy accepted. Receivable's offer provided in relevant part:

Defendant will allow judgment to be entered against it in the amount of Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($250.00), plus reasonable costs and attorneys' fees incurred by Plaintiff up to the date of this Offer of Judgment only, in an amount mutually agreed upon by the parties, or as determined by the Court if the parties cannot reach agreement.

Doc. No. 6-2, § 1. On September 7, 2012, judgment was entered in favor of Murphy "in the amount of $250 together with interest and costs." Doc. No. 7.

Murphy, who is represented by the law firm Kimmel & Silverman, now moves for an award of $2, 178.50 in attorney's fees and $350.00 in costs. Receivable opposes the request. For the following reasons, I will grant the motion and award Murphy $1, 650.70 in attorney's fees and $350.00 in costs.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A plaintiff who succeeds in enforcing liability under the FDCPA 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(a)(3).

"The starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee is the lodestar, which courts determine by calculating the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.'" McKenna v. City of Philadelphia , 582 F.3d 447, 455 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart , 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). The lodestar "is a presumptively reasonable fee, but it may still require subsequent adjustment." United Auto. Workers Local 259 Soc. Sec. Dept. v. Metro Auto Ctr. , 501 F.3d 283, 290 (3d Cir. 2007).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Reasonable Hourly Rate

A reasonable hourly rate is calculated according to "the prevailing rate in the forum of the litigation." Interfaith Cmty. Org. v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc. , 426 F.3d 694, 705 (3d Cir. 2005). For attorney Craig Thor Kimmel, Murphy seeks $425.00/hour. For attorneys Tara Patterson, Amy Bennecoff, and Angela Troccoli, Murphy seeks $300.00/hour. For paralegals Katelynn Fitti and Jason Ryan, Murphy seeks $165.00/hour and $155.00/hour, respectively. For law clerk Lara Dellegrotti, Murphy seeks $180.00/hour.

The movant bears the initial burden of "produc[ing] satisfactory evidence-in addition to the attorney's own affidavits-that the requested rates are in line with those prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience and reputation." Blum v. Stenson , 465 U.S. 886, 895 n.11 (1984). If the movant meets this burden, "the defendant may contest the reasonableness of the rate with appropriate record evidence.'" Carey v. City of Wilkes-Barre, 496 F.Appx. 234, 237 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Evans v. Port Auth. of New York & New Jersey , 273 F.3d 346, 360 (3d Cir. 2001)). "Notably, hourly rates that were set for a specific attorney in previous court decisions do not generally constitute record evidence, unless those rates were set for the same attorney and for the same type of work over a contemporaneous time period." Carey, 496 F.Appx. at 237 (citations omitted). If the movant fails to meet his initial burden, "the district court has the discretion to determine what award is reasonable." Id.

The only evidence Murphy produces in addition to his attorneys' own affidavits are rate determinations in five other FDCPA cases from this district. Brass v. NCO Fin. Sys., Inc. , 11-CV-1611, 2011 WL 3862145 (E.D. Pa. July 22, 2011); Lindenbaum v. NCO Fin. Sys., Inc., CIV.A. 11-264, 2011 WL 2848748 (E.D. Pa. July 19, 2011); Alexander v. NCO Fin. Sys., Inc., CIV.A. 11-401 , 2011 WL 2415156 (E.D. Pa. June 16, 2011); Williams v. NCO Fin. Sys., Inc., CIV.A. 10-5766, 2011 WL 1791099 (E.D. Pa. May 11, 2011); Order, Rivera v. NCO Fin. Sys., Inc., 11-CV-402 (E.D. Pa. May 2, 2011). Likewise, the only evidence Receivable produces in opposition are rate determinations in other FDCPA cases. Zavodnick v. Gordon & Weisberg, P.C., CIV. 10-7125, 2012 WL 2036493 (E.D. Pa. June 6, 2012); Brass , 2011 WL 3862145; Alexander , 2011 WL 2415156; Williams, 2011 WL 1791099.[1]

For the following reasons, I find that Murphy has not met his initial burden with regard to Troccoli, Fitti, or Dellegrotti, and I will therefore exercise my discretion to determine reasonable rates for those individuals. Although Murphy has met his initial burden with regard to Kimmel, Patterson, Bennecoff, and Ryan, ...


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