United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
S. Edwards, Magistrate Judge.
the Court is Plaintiff Stephanie Bailey's Motion for
Attorneys' Fees and Costs against Defendant United
Recovery Solutions, Inc. based on the Court's recent
entry of default judgment in favor of Plaintiff. (DN 21; DN
23). The time for Defendant to respond has passed. The
District Judge has referred this matter to the undersigned
United States Magistrate Judge for a Report and
Recommendation. (DN 24).
Stephanie Bailey filed a complaint against Defendant United
Recovery Solutions, Inc., alleging violations of the
Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. §
227, and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15
U.S.C. § 1692. (DN 1). After Defendant was served and
failed to answer, the Court entered a default judgment for
Bailey. (DN 18, adopting in full and incorporating DN 16). By
virtue of the default, the Court found Bailey was entitled to
$6, 500 in damages for violations of the TCPA and $1, 000 for
violations of the FDCPA. (DN 16, at p. 9). Bailey has now
filed a Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs against
Defendant. (DN 23).
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)). District
courts in the Sixth Circuit use the “lodestar”
method to calculate reasonable fees. 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 requires multiplying “the
number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation . . .
by a reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley, 461
U.S. at 433. Because the goal in fee shifting is not to
“achieve auditing perfection, ” but to attain
“rough justice, ” Fox v. Vice, 563 U.S.
826, 838 (2011), 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 rate claimed and the
hours worked. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. “Where
the documentation of hours is inadequate, the district court
may reduce the award accordingly.” Id.
Court may also use its discretion to adjust the lodestar fee
by considering twelve factors identified by the Fifth Circuit
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 her $3, 580.00 in attorneys'
fees and $1, 166.77 in costs.She explains that two law firms,
Morgan & Morgan and Anthony & Partners, were retained
in this case. (DN 23, at p. 3). For Morgan & Morgan's
services from April 5, 2017 through August 15, 2018, Bailey
states that she owes: $525.00 for 1.5 hours of attorney time,
billed at $350.00 per hour; $2, 235.00 for 14.9 hours of
paralegal time, billed at $150.00 per hour; and $1, 166.77 in
costs. (Id.). For Anthony & Partners services
from July 13, 2018 through August 22, 2018, Bailey states she
owes: $820.00 for 4 hours of attorney time, billed at $205.00
per hour. (Id. at pp. 3-5). To support these totals,
Bailey submits time sheets from both law firms with a list of
billing entries, specifying the date of the billed activity,
the individual billing the time, a brief description of the
work performed, the time billed in tenths of an hour, and the
calculated fee per entry. (See DN 23-1; DN 23-2).
After reviewing these entries, it appears that Anthony &
Partners only performed work in Bailey's case involving
the instant motion for attorneys' fees. (See DN
23-2). Bailey also submits a “case expense
report” delineating the costs and fees associated with
her case, including filing fees, service of process fees,
long distances telephone charges, subpoena compliance
charges, and printing and postage expenses. (See DN
23-1, at pp. 5-6).
determining a reasonable hourly rate, “courts should
look to the hourly rates prevailing in the community for
similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill,
experience, or reputation.” Fuhr v. School Dist. of
Hazel Park, 364 F.3d 753, 762 (6th Cir. 2004). The
court, however, retains broad discretion to determine what
constitutes a reasonable hourly rate. Id.; Wells
v. New Cherokee Corp., 58 F.3d 233, 239 (6th Cir. 1995).
Frank Kerney, a shareholder from Morgan & Morgan requests
a rate of $350.00 hourly for the 1.5 hours he billed in this
matter, and attorney Bradley W. Crocker, an associate from
Anthony & Partners requests a rate of $205.00 for the 4
hours he billed in this matter. (DN 23, at p. 5). Bailey
alleges these rates are “customary” in the Tampa
Bay metropolitan area for prosecution of commercial
litigation or are lower than the market rate and
“appear to be similar” to metropolitan areas in
the Western District of Kentucky. (Id.). The Motion
then states: “[t]he Firms anticipate filing an
affidavit of reasonableness as to attorneys' fees once a
fee expert has completed her review.” (DN 23, at p. 5).
Yet almost two months have passed since Bailey filed her
Amended Motion for Attorneys' Fees, and no such affidavit
has been submitted.
any evidence of Mr. Kerney's or Mr. Crocker's
experience in these types of matters, the Court is left to
examine awards in similar FDCPA cases. First the Court looks
to similar cases within the Sixth Circuit, where this action
was brought. In April of 2017, a judge within this district
found $250.00 an hour was a reasonable hourly rate in an
FDCPA case. Couch v. Transworld Systems, Inc., No.
3:16-CV-00618-CRS, 2017 WL 1520426, at *2 (W.D. Ky. Apr. 25,
2017). In other district courts within the Sixth Circuit,
judges have found $203.00 an hour, Bootz v. K.I.P.,
LLC, No. 15-1419, 2016 WL 2733093, at *2 (E.D. Mich. May
11, 2016) (finding that requested hourly rate is reasonable
and compares favorably with prevailing rates in this
district); $325.00 an hour, Watson v. Fin. Accounts Serv.
Team, Inc., 2:16-CV-00260-HSM-MCLC, 2017 WL 1404532, at
*1-2 (E.D. Tenn. Jan. 30, 2017) (finding requested rate to be
reasonable based on declarations of plaintiff's counsel
and itemization of services performed), and $350.00 an hour,
Tikan v. Asset Acceptance, LLC, No. 13-12173, 2016
WL 1212641, at *3 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 12, 2016) (finding rate to
be appropriate in view of the most recent State Bar of
Michigan Economics of Law Practice Survey), to all be
reasonable hourly rates. In Tikan, the court further
found the rate of $125.00 per hour for a legal assistant was
reasonable and in line with other paralegal rates approved
throughout the district. 2016 WL 1212641, at *3.
Court also looks to similar cases in the Tampa Bay area,
where the attorneys in this case practice. One judge in the
Tampa division of the Middle District of Florida noted that,
where a plaintiff provides no information regarding the
experience of his or her counsel, their expertise, or their
reputations, and nothing about the case appears complex, then
“$200.00 to $300.00 per hour is a reasonable hourly
rate for a routine FDCPA matter[.]” Myrick v.
Distribution & Acquisition Network, No.
8:09-cv-1391-T-33TBM, 2010 WL 2179112, at *5 (M.D. Fla. Apr.
28, 2010). A more recent case from that same district noted
that “courts award between $100.00 and $350.00 per hour
for attorneys and between $95.00 and $100.00 per hour for
paralegals” and ultimately found an hourly rate of
$300.00 was appropriate for an attorney with considerable
experience where the issues were neither novel nor difficult.
Alston v. Receivables, No. 6:17-cv-1723-Orl-31-DCI,
2018 WL 3448595, at *10 (M.D. Fla. June 27, 2018) (citing
Castro v. Capital One Servs., LLC, Case No.
8:16-cv-889-T-17TGW, 2017 WL 6765246, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Dec.
15, 2017) ...