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Sayre v. Customers Bank

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 23, 2017

ROBERT D. SAYRE, Plaintiff,
v.
CUSTOMERS BANK, Defendant.

          OPINION

          Slomsky, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court are two Motions for Attorney's fees filed by counsel for Plaintiff.[1] (Doc. Nos. 87, 89.) Counsel for Plaintiff has requested the award of attorney fees in view of the Court's Opinion and Order dated June 5, 2017, entering judgment in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendant on Plaintiff's claim under Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”). For reasons that follow, the Amended Motion for Attorney's Fees (Doc. No. 89) will be granted in part and denied in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On June 5, 2017, this Court issued an Opinion and Order entering judgment in favor of Plaintiff Robert D. Sayre and against Defendant Customers Bank. (Doc. Nos. 82, 83.) The Order stated that Plaintiff was entitled to receive $10, 407.03 in actual damages, which was a trebled amount, plus prejudgment interest. (Doc. No. 83.) The damages consisted of legal and appraisal fees that were improperly charged by Defendant. (Doc. No. 83.) The Court directed “Plaintiff's counsel to follow Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 54(d)(2) . . . [and] . . . submit an appropriate Motion for attorney's fees under this Rule.” (Doc. No. 82 at 21.) The Court also instructed the parties to jointly calculate the appropriate prejudgment interest. (Id.) On June 15, 2017, the Court entered a Final Order as follows:

Judgment is entered in favor of Plaintiff Robert D. Sayre and against Defendant Customers Bank on Count II of the Amended Complaint alleging a violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection [Law] (Doc. No. 22) in the amount of $10, 407.03 plus pre-judgment interest in the amount of $817.95, for a total judgment in the amount of $11, 224.98, plus reasonable attorney's fees pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2).

(Doc. No. 86.) Thereafter, on June 19, 2017, Plaintiff's counsel filed the Motion for Attorney's Fees Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 54(d)(2). (Doc. No. 87.) On June 23, 2017, Plaintiff's counsel filed the Amended Motion for Attorney's Fees. (Doc. No. 89.)

         In the Amended Motion for Attorney's fees Plaintiff's counsel, James E. Crossen, Esquire, describes the hours he worked on this case, albeit trying as best he could to focus on his work on the UTPCPL claim. From August 19, 2014, the time he started to work on the case to April 23, 2015, the period before the Motion to Dismiss was decided, Mr. Crossen billed for 65.5 hours of work. (Doc. No. 89-1 at 1-9.) He also billed for 81 hours of work he spent on this case following the May 29, 2015 decision on the Motion to Dismiss to April 8, 2016, the date when the parties stipulated to dismissal of one of the remaining Counts in the Amended Complaint. (Id. at 9-18; see also Doc. No. 59.) Mr. Crossen billed for an additional 89.2 hours between April 11, 2016, after the stipulation was entered into, and September 16, 2016, the date when the Motion for Summary Judgment was decided. (Id. at 18-23.) Finally, Mr. Crossen billed for 62.95 hours for work performed on this case following the Court's Opinion and Order on the Motion for Summary Judgment. (Id. at 23-25.)[2]

         On July 10, 2017, Defendant filed its Opposition to Plaintiff's Amended Motion for Attorney's Fees Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 54(d)(2). (Doc. No. 93.) Plaintiff's Amended Motion for Attorney's Fees is now ripe for disposition.[3]

         III. ANALYSIS

         In the Amended Motion for Attorney's Fees, Plaintiff's counsel seeks payment for $55, 584.38, which he represents was for 296.45 hours of time spent on the UTPCPL claim in this case.[4] (Doc. No. 89-1 at 26.) Plaintiff's counsel applied a 25% reduction in fees in reaching this amount. (Id.) In addition to the overall reduction, Plaintiff's counsel also deleted 131.60 hours of attorney and paralegal time that was claimed in the initial Motion for Attorney's Fees (Doc. No. 87 at 2-4). (Id.)

         Defendant disagrees with Plaintiff's calculations and contends that Plaintiff's counsel's fees are excessive. Defendant argues that “[g]iven that the first 42 paragraphs, of the Amended Complaint's 54 paragraphs of facts, never touches upon any matters relating to the UTPCPL, it stretches the imagination how 75% of time expended was conveniently directed to the prevailing claim.” (Doc. No. 93 at 2.) Defendant noted that Plaintiff had four claims dismissed at the Motion to Dismiss stage of the litigation, one claim stricken by stipulation of the parties before the Summary Judgment phase of litigation, and one claim dismissed at the Summary Judgment stage. (Id.) This left only one remaining claim, the UTPCPL claim. As noted above, Plaintiff was successful on this claim and judgment was entered in his favor in the amount of $10, 407.03, which again consisted of actual damages that were trebled, plus interest.

         Because Plaintiff prevailed on the UTPCPL claim alleged in Count II of the Amended Complaint, this Court may grant him an award of reasonable attorney's fees under Section 201-9(a):

(a) Any person who purchases or leases goods or services primarily for personal, family or household purposes and thereby suffers any ascertainable loss of money or property, real or personal, as a result of the use or employment by any person of a method, act or practice declared unlawful by section 3 of this act, may bring a private action to recover actual damages or one hundred dollars ($100), whichever is greater. The court may, in its discretion, award up to three times the actual damages sustained, but not less than one hundred dollars ($100), and may provide such additional relief as it deems necessary or proper. The court may award to the plaintiff, in addition to other relief provided in this section, costs and reasonable attorney fees.

Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 201-9(a). In the Amended Motion for Attorney's Fees, Plaintiff's counsel adhered to the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2):

(A) Claim to Be by Motion. A claim for attorney's fees and related nontaxable expenses must be made by motion unless the substantive law requires those fees to be proved at trial as an element of damages.
(B) Timing and Contents of the Motion. Unless a statute or a court order provides otherwise, the motion must:
(i) be filed no later than 14 days after the entry of judgment;
(ii) specify the judgment and the statute, rule, or other grounds entitling the ...

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