NAME HOURS RATE AMOUNT
Edelman 2.0 $275.00 $550.00
Goodwin 3.0 $135.00 $405.00
Weinberg 25.0 $135.00 $3375.00
Demos 1.0 $75.00 $75.00
McMahon-Zeller 9.0 $75.00 $675.00
TOTAL 40.0 $5080.00
This yields a total of $ 5080.00. This sum is "presumed to be the reasonable fee." Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 897, 79 L. Ed. 2d 891, 104 S. Ct. 1541 (1984). However, a court can adjust the lodestar, upward or downward, in certain circumstances. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 430 n.3, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40, 103 S. Ct. 1933 (1983) (listing twelve factors which can adjust the amount). The burden is on the party seeking the adjustment. Perez v. Perkiss, 742 F. Supp. 883, 890 (D.Del. 1990). MCT argues that the awarded fees should be reduced because of the dilatory and harassing conduct of the Altergott attorneys. We note that the Altergott attorneys pursued this relatively minor case in a rather aggressive manner. We also recognize that a fine line can exist between harassing tactics and aggressive lawyering. While we do not feel that this line has been crossed by the Altergott attorneys to the extent that they would forfeit their right to fees, we do note that this relatively simple case could have and should have been pursued in a far more efficient manner.
One of the twelve factors which Hensley deems relevant when adjusting a lodestar amount is "the amount involved and the results obtained." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 430 n.3. As MCT points out in its Response Memorandum, as far back as September 13, 1993, this court suggested that Altergott could file a motion for judgment on the pleadings on the basis of MCT's answer to her complaint. In its answer, MCT admitted that the validation notice contained in its first letter to Altergott was incomplete and therefore in violation of the FDCPA. While the Altergott attorneys were under no obligation to pursue this course of action, we note that given the statutory cap on damages and the relatively minor injury alleged by Altergott, such a course might have been wise. Seventy percent of the legal fees incurred by the attorneys at Edelman & Combs were billed after September, 1993. We find the amount and timing of these fees to be relevant to the evaluation of the results obtained. Altergott's eventual judgment was for $ 300.00. Given the facts of the case, her recovery could never have been much more than that. Still, in calculating a reasonable amount to which Altergott's attorneys are entitled, we choose not to reduce the award by seventy percent. We do find, however, that a significant amount should be subtracted from the lodestar amount. MCT should not have to shoulder the entire financial burden occasioned by Edelman & Combs' failure to make a reasonable assessment of the value of their case. We therefore reduce the above figure of $ 5080.00 by one-half. The Altergott attorneys are entitled to "reasonable" attorneys fees in the amount of $ 2540.00.
Finally, we address the costs. Edelman & Combs submits a listing of costs totaling $ 431.00. We will exclude the amounts for postage and messenger services because we consider these items to be overhead, and thus not recoverable from the client. We also exclude the amounts claimed for photocopying because these costs were not explained in terms of the documents photocopied or the number of copies made, so they are not properly supported. Finally, we exclude as unsupported the amount claimed for the Department of Insurance, for it does not identify the subject, the basis of cost, or its connection to the case against MCT. This eliminates $ 142.40 from the $ 431.00 requested by Edelman & Combs. The remaining costs which include filing fees and service through the Sheriff will be allowed. Thus, the Altergott attorneys are entitled to $ 288.60 in recoverable costs.
For the reasons stated above, we award Edelman & Combs $ 2540.00 in attorneys' fees and $ 288.60 in costs from defendant MCT.
Charles P. Kocoras
United States District Judge
Dated: September 16, 1994