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Kaylor-Trent v. John C. Bonewicz, P.C.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

January 9, 2013

Stephanie KAYLOR-TRENT, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN C. BONEWICZ, P.C., Defendant.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Adam T. Hill, Krohn & Moss Ltd, Chicago, IL, Adam J. Krohn, Krohn & Moss Ltd, Los Angeles, CA, for Plaintiff.

Nicole M. Strickler, Joseph S. Messer, Messer & Stilp Ltd, Chicago, IL, for Defendant.

OPINION

SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, District Judge.

This cause is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs Pursuant to Judgment (d/e 27). Plaintiff's Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Applying an hourly rate of $125 to the hours reasonably expended, Plaintiff's attorneys are entitled to attorney fees totaling $9,700. Plaintiff's Bill of Costs is allowed in the amount of $934.05.

I. BACKGROUND

In August 2011, Plaintiff, Stephanie Kaylor-Trent, filed suit against Defendant,

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John C. Bonewicz, P.C., pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) (15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq.). Plaintiff alleged that Defendant violated various sections of the FDCPA, including 15 U.S.C. § 1692d(6) (providing that " the placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller's identity" is a violation of § 1692d) and 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(11) (providing that it is a violation for a debt collector to fail " to disclose in subsequent communications that the communication is fro a debt collector" ). Plaintiff sought statutory damages of $1,000, as well as costs and attorney fees.

Defendant admitted violating the FDCPA by leaving a message on Plaintiff's cell phone that failed to properly identify the caller's identity and failed to disclose that the communication was from a debt collector. See Answer, ¶¶ 14, 15 (d/e 7). However, Defendant filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (d/e 8) asking that the Court enter judgment in favor of Plaintiff on liability but deny Plaintiff statutory damages.

On January 4, 2012, 2012 WL 12780, this Court granted Defendant's request that the Court enter judgment against Defendant and in favor of Plaintiff on liability but denied the request that the Court find Plaintiff was not entitled to any damages. See Opinion (d/e 10). Instead, the Court found that Plaintiff had stated a plausible claim for statutory damages. See Opinion (d/e 10).

On October 30, 2012, the matter proceeded to a bench trial on statutory damages. Plaintiff testified on her own behalf. Plaintiff also submitted as evidence the deposition transcripts of John C. Bonewicz (the president of Defendant) and Shantel Hamilton, one of the collectors who worked on Plaintiff's file. Defendant presented no evidence (other than a Joint Exhibit) and called no witnesses.

On November 2, 2012, 910 F.Supp.2d 1112, 2012 WL 5386146 (C.D.Ill.2012), the Court, after examining the three relevant factors, awarded Plaintiff the maximum statutory amount of $1,000. See Opinion (d/e 23); 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(b)(1)(identifying the relevant factors as: (1) the frequency and persistence of noncompliance by the debt collector; (2) the nature of such noncompliance; and (3) the extent to which such noncompliance was intentional). The Court also found Plaintiff was entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs. See Opinion (d/e 23).

On November 27, 2012, Plaintiff filed her Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs Pursuant to Judgment and her Bill of Costs. See d/e 27, 28. Defendant has filed its objections. See d/e 29, 30. Plaintiff filed a response in support of her Bill of Costs. See d/e 34.

II. ATTORNEY FEES

Plaintiff seeks attorney fees in the amount of $33,110, which consists of: (1) 110.5 hours billed by seven attorneys at rates ranging from $245 to $445; and (2) 7.3 hours billed by paralegals and law clerks at $145 per hour. Plaintiff seeks costs totaling $1,113.

Defendant objects to the amount of attorney fees Plaintiff seeks. See d/e 30. Defendant also objects to Plaintiff's Bill of Costs. See d/e 29.

When calculating an award of attorney fees under the FDCPA, the court generally begins by calculating the lodestar: the attorney's reasonable hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours reasonably expended. Gastineau v. Wright, 592 F.3d 747, 748 (7th Cir.2010). Thereafter, the court may adjust the figure to reflect various factors, including " the complexity of the legal issues involved, the degree of success obtained, and the public interest advanced by the litigation." Id. see also

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Tolentino v. Friedman, 46 F.3d 645, 652 (7th Cir.1995) (listing the twelve factors courts should consider in determining attorney fees).

The party seeking fees bears the burden of proving the reasonableness of the hourly rate charged and the reasonableness of the hours worked. Spegon v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 175 F.3d 544, 550 (7th Cir.1999). If the party seeking fees meets her burden, the burden shifts to the opposing party to demonstrate why a lower rate should be awarded. Id. at 555. If the party seeking fees does not meet her burden, then the Court " has the authority to make its own determination of a reasonable rate." Pickett v. Sheridan Health Care Center, 664 F.3d 632, 640 (7th Cir.2011), citing Uphoff v. Elegant Bath, Ltd., 176 F.3d 399, 409 (7th Cir.1999) (where the plaintiff only offered self-serving affidavits to demonstrate the market rate, the district court did not err by reducing the rate from $190 per hour to $115 per hour).

A. Plaintiff's Attorneys Failed to Prove Their Market Rate

1. The Parties' Positions

All of Plaintiff's attorneys were, at the time services were rendered, employed by Krohn & Moss, Ltd. Plaintiff seeks fees for lead attorneys Adam Hill and Mike Agruss at a rate of $290 per hour; for partners Adam Krohn and Scott Cohen at $445 per hour; for consulting attorneys Douglas Baek and Jessica Pascale at $290 per hour; for consulting attorney Matthew Rosenthal at $245 per hour; and for paralegal and law clerks at $145 per hour. Plaintiff asserts that these rates are commensurate with the experience and training of each individual.

The biographies of the attorneys reflect that Attorney Hill graduated law school in 2007 and is licensed to practice law in Illinois and New York. The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission lists Attorney Hill as having been admitted to the Illinois bar in 2007. Attorney Hill concentrates his practice in the area of consumer protection and breach of warranty, with a focus on the FDCPA. He has worked for Krohn & Moss, Ltd., as an attorney since 2007.

Attorney Agruss has been licensed in Illinois since May 2004 and in California since 2008. He joined Krohn & Moss, Ltd., in September 2008 and concentrates his practice on the FDCPA. Although not reflected in the biography attached to the Motion, the Motion to Substitute Counsel filed in this case reflects that Attorney Agruss left Krohn & Moss, Ltd., in February 2012. See d/e 14.

Attorney Baek graduated law school in 2008 and is an active member of the California bar. He joined Krohn & Moss, Ltd., in 2010 and concentrates his practice on the FDCPA and other consumer protection statutes.

Attorney Pascale has been licensed in California since 2009 and in New York since 2010. She joined Krohn & Moss, Ltd. as an attorney in 2011 and concentrates her practice on the FDCPA.

Attorney Rosenthal was admitted to the Illinois bar in 2010 and the California bar in 2011. He joined Krohn & Moss, Ltd. in June 2012. He concentrates his practice on the FDCPA.

Attorney Krohn is the managing and founding partner of Krohn & Moss, Ltd. He was admitted to the Illinois bar in November 1994.

Attorney Cohen is a consumer attorney concentrating his practice on breach of warranty, fair debt collection, and consumer fraud actions. He was admitted to the Illinois bar in November 1996. Attorney Cohen has been employed as an attorney

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at Krohn & Moss, Ltd. since November ...


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