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Vahidy v. Transworld Systems

September 1, 2009

SOHAIL VAHIDY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TRANSWORLD SYSTEMS, INC. A/K/A GREEN FLAG RECOVERY BY TRANSWORLD SYSTEMS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: P. Michael Mahoney, Magistrate Judge United States District Court

Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. Background

Plaintiffs in two related cases have filed petitions for attorneys' fees. The cases arise under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1962 et seq. ("FDCPA"). Ayisa Decker ("Decker") is the plaintiff in the first case, and Sohail Vahidy ("Vahidy") is the plaintiff in the second case. Vahidy and Decker are husband and wife. Apparently, their cases arise from Defendants' attempts to collect a single debt owed to Healy Auto Sales, to which both Decker and Vahidy were obligors. (Def. Resp. 2.)

Vahidy filed his complaint on March 25, 2009 and Decker filed her complaint on March 30, 2009. Defendant served each plaintiff with a separate offer of judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68 on May 4, 2009. The offers were identical. Each provided that judgment be entered in favor of the plaintiff and against defendant in the amount of $750. Also, Paragraph Two of both offers states the following:

The Judgment entered shall include an additional amount for Plaintiff's reasonable costs and attorney's fees accrued through the date of this Offer of Judgment either:

1) as agreed to by counsel for the parties; or 2), [sic] in the event counsel cannot agree, as determined by the Court upon application by Plaintiff's counsel[.] (Pls.' Pets. Ex. A.)

Vahidy and Decker each accepted their offers on May 13, 2009. On May 15, 2009, Judge Reinhard entered the following minute order in Decker's case:

On 5/13/2009, defendant's Rule 68 Offer of Judgment and plaintiff's acceptance of that offer were filed with the court. The offer of judgment provides that judgment be entered in favor of plaintiff and against defendant for statutory damages in the amount of $750.00 and that the judgment shall include an additional amount for plaintiff's reasonable costs and attorney's fees accrued through the date of the offer.

The amount of the fees and costs is to be as agreed by counsel for the parties or in the event agreement cannot be reached, as determined by the court upon application of plaintiff's counsel. An agreement of the parties or application by plaintiff's counsel shall be filed on or before 6/5/2009. (Crt. Doc. 13 in Decker v. Transworld Sys., No. 09-C50073.) After receiving an amended notice of Vahidy's acceptance of Defendant's offer, Judge Kapala entered the following minute order in her case on May 26, 2009:

Pursuant to plaintiff's notice of acceptance of Rule 68 offer of judgment, judgment is entered for plaintiff Sohail Vahidy and against defendant Transworld Systems, Inc. in the amount of $750.00. Parties have agreed the judgment shall include reasonable costs and attorney's fees accrued through the date of the offer of judgment. This case is closed. Civil case terminated. (Crt. Doc. 17 in Vahidy v. Transworld Sys., No. 09-C50067.) That same day, the clerk entered judgment in Vahidy v. Transworld, and the case was closed.

On June 3, 2009, both Vahidy and Decker filed petitions for attorneys' fees and costs in their respective cases. The petitions are virtually identical. Vahidy seeks $2,941.30 in attorneys' fees and costs, and Decker seeks $2,855.60. Defendant does not dispute that plaintiffs' attorneys are entitled to fees and costs pursuant to the settlement. However, Defendant raises a number of objections regarding the calculations of the fees.*fn1 Parties in both cases consented to the exercise of jurisdiction by Magistrate Judge Mahoney on June 15, 2009.

II. Discussion

The reasonableness of an award of attorneys' fees is determined using the lodestar method: a court is to multiply the number of hours reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate. Hensely v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). Hours that are excessive, redundant or otherwise unnecessary are not "reasonably expended" and should therefore be excluded from this calculation. Id. The district court is also to consider other factors such as the degree of success obtained by the prevailing party's counsel, the novelty and difficulty of the questions presented, the skill required by the particular case, the customary fee, whether the fee is fixed or contingent, the experience of the attorneys, and awards in similar cases. Id. at 434 n.9 (citing Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717--19 (5th ...


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