United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville
FREDERICK W. COUCH PLAINTIFF
TRANSWORLD SYSTEMS, INC. DEFENDANT
CHARLES R. SIMPSON III, SENIOR JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the motion of Plaintiff
Frederick W. Couch for an award of attorney fees and costs,
ECF No. 16. Defendant Transworld Systems, Inc.
("TSI") responded, ECF No. 17. Couch replied,
additionally requesting leave to file a supplemental petition
for attorney fees, ECF No. 20. For the reasons discussed
below, the Court will grant the motion for attorney fees and
costs in part. The Court will award Couch $3, 150.00 in
attorney fees and $165.43 in costs, for a total award of $3,
315.43. The Court will deny Couch's request for leave to
file a supplemental petition for attorney fees.
brought suit against TSI in the Jefferson County, Kentucky
Circuit Court. Compl. 1, ECF No. 1-1. In the complaint, Couch
alleges violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. Id. ¶ 1.
Specifically, Couch alleges that TSI sent a letter to him in
an effort to collect a debt in the amount of $42.55.
Id. ¶ 9. The word "TRANSMITTAL" was
printed in large font over a bold green stripe across the
envelope containing the letter. Id. ¶ 10. In
addition, a "barcode and data matrix code" could be
seen through the clear window pane of the envelope.
Id. ¶ 11.
removed the case to this Court. Notice Removal 1, ECF No. 1.
On December 22, 2016, TSI made an offer of judgment to Couch
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68. Offer J. 1, ECF No.
13-1. The offer specified that, without admitting liability,
TSI would pay $1, 001.00 in statutory and actual damages, as
well as "an amount for reasonable attorney's fees
and costs." Id. The attorney fees and costs
were to be either agreed upon by the parties or determined by
the Court. Id.
accepted TSFs offer. Id. at 2; Couch Letter, ECF No.
13-2. Couch filed notice with this Court that he had accepted
TSFs offer. Notice Acceptance, ECF No. 13. Couch moved this
Court for entry of judgment. Mot. J., ECF No. 15. This Court
entered judgment on April 21, 2017. Order, ECF No. 21. The
parties were unable to agree on a reasonable fee award and
Couch now moves this Court for an award of attorney fees and
costs. Mot. Att'y Fees, ECF No. 16.
FDCPA entitles a prevailing party to reasonable attorney fees
and court costs. 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3). A reasonable
attorney fee is "one that is adequately compensatory to
attract competent counsel yet which avoids producing a
windfall for lawyers." Geier v. Sundquist, 372
F.3d 784, 791 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Reed v.
Rhodes, 179 F.3d 453, 471 (6th Cir. 1999)). To calculate
a reasonable fee, district courts in the Sixth Circuit use
the "lodestar" method. Imwalle v. Reliance Med.
Prods., Inc., 515 F.3d 531, 551 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). The
lodestar method involves multiplying "the number of
hours reasonably expended on the litigation ... by a
reasonable hourly rate." Hensley, 461 U.S. at
433. The goal in shifting fees is not to "achieve
auditing perfection, " but to "do rough
justice." Fox v. Vice, 563 U.S. 826, 838
(2011). Thus, there is a strong presumption that the lodestar
figure will be reasonable. Pennsylvania v. Delaware
Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 478
U.S. 546, 565 (1986). "The party seeking an award of
fees should submit evidence supporting the hours worked and
rates claimed. Where the documentation of hours is
inadequate, the district court may reduce the award
accordingly." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. In
addition, counsel for the prevailing party should exercise
"billing judgment" and exclude "hours that are
excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary."
Id. at 434.
the Court arrives at a lodestar figure, it may then, within
its discretion, adjust this figure to reflect the
considerations outlined in Johnson v. Georgia Highway
Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974).
See Adcock-Ladd v. Sec'y of Treasury, 227 F.3d
343, 349 (6th Cir. 2000). These considerations are: (1) the
time and labor required, (2) the novelty and difficulty of
the questions, (3) the skill required to perform the legal
service properly, (4) the preclusion of other employment by
the attorney because of acceptance of the case, (5) the
customary fee, (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent,
(7) time limitations imposed by the client or the
circumstances, (8) the amount involved and the results
obtained, (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the
attorneys, (10) the undesirability of the case, (11) the
nature and length of the professional relationship with the
client, and (12) awards in similar cases. Johnson,
488 F.2d at 717-19, abrogated on other grounds by
Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87, 90 (1989).
asks this Court to award him $6, 500.00 in attorney fees and
$165.43 in costs.  Mot. Att'y Fees, ECF No. 16. He
also requests leave to file a supplemental petition for
attorney fees incurred pursuing these attorney fees. Reply
Supp. Mot. Att'y Fees 7, ECF No. 20. Couch attaches a
declaration by his attorney, Nina Couch, in which she
documents the hours spent on this case by her and her
co-counsel, Zachary L. Taylor. Decl. 2-3, ECF No. 16-1.
Attorney Couch also states that the attorneys' hourly
rate is $250.00. Id. ¶ 6. TSI does not contest
that $250.00 is a reasonable hourly rate. Resp. Opp. Mot.
Att'y Fees 3 n.l, ECF No. 17. Rather, TSI contests the
amount of hours Couch's attorneys spent on this
litigation. Id. at 2. TSI asserts that Couch
"seeks compensation for excessive, duplicative, and
non-compensable billing entries." Id.
Additionally, TSI asserts that application of the
Johnson considerations warrants further reduction in
the award of attorney fees. Id. at 7-9. TSI suggests
that Couch's attorney fee award should be reduced to $1,
925.00. Id. at 9.
Whether There Are Excessive Billing Entries
points to the following billing entries as excessive: (1)
Entry on 8/1/2016 for 6.4 hours for "Research;" (2)
Entry on 9/29/2016 for 0.8 hours for "Prepare and File
Jury Demand;" (3) Entry on 10/28/2016 for 2.5 hours for
"Draft Discovery Requests." Id. at 5
(citing Decl. 2-3, ECF No. 16-1).
TSI states that the 6.4 hour entry for "Research"
is excessive because there is no explanation of the type of
research conducted. Id. Thus, it asserts, "it
is impossible to evaluate the necessity of over six hours of
research." Id. TSI recommends that this Court
reduce the amount of time awarded for this entry to 3.2
hours. Time Entries 2, ECF No. 17-2. Couch replies that
"the FDCPA is an evolving body of law" and points
to a circuit split, on which the Sixth Circuit has not
decided, over whether a "benign language exception"
exists. Reply Supp. Mot. Att'y Fees 5, ECF No. 20. He
asserts that because the Sixth Circuit has not decided the
issue, his attorneys researched this exception both prior to
and after filing the complaint. Id. Couch ...