United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, DISTRICT JUDGE
Evans sued Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC for violating
the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C.
§ 1692e, by sharing Evans's credit information with
a credit reporting agency without indicating that she
disputed the debt allegedly owed to Portfolio. The Court
granted Evans's motion for summary judgment. The parties
then stipulated that Evans suffered $1, 000 in damages. The
Court entered judgment for $1, 000 and directed Evans to file
a fee petition. Evans has moved for attorney's fees and
costs totaling $62, 439.95. For the reasons set out below,
the Court awards Evans fees and costs in the amount of $43,
filed her complaint on May 21, 2015. She alleged that
Portfolio, a collection agency, purchased debt she owed on a
World Financial Network Bank account. The debt went into
default and Portfolio attempted to collect on the debt. In
March 2014, Evans sent Portfolio a letter indicating that she
disputed the amount of the alleged debt. In December 2014,
Portfolio provided Evans's credit information regarding
the alleged debt to the Experian consumer reporting agency.
Evans alleged that Portfolio failed to also indicate that she
disputed the debt, in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692e.
moved for summary judgment on her claim. In response,
Portfolio argued that Evans could not prove it was a debt
collector, that the alleged debt falls under the FDCPA's
definition of debt, or that Portfolio knowingly made a
materially, false, deceptive, or misleading representation.
Portfolio also argued that it was protected from liability by
the FDCPA's bona fide error provision and that Evans
lacked standing to sue. The Court found in favor of Evans on
every argument. It concluded that (1) the debt clearly
qualified under the FDCPA, (2) Portfolio is a debt collector,
(3) Portfolio's failure to notify Experian that Evans
disputed the debt was a materially false, deceptive or
misleading representation; (4) Portfolio could not prevail on
the bona fide error defense because the violation was the
result of an affirmative policy; and (5) the presence of
inaccurate credit information on Evans's credit history
was sufficient to confer standing to sue.
the Court's ruling, the case was referred to Magistrate
Judge Kim for a settlement conference. In March 2017, the
parties filed a stipulation regarding damages, in which they
agreed to an entry of judgment of $1, 000 in favor of Evans.
Dkt. no. 75. Two days later, the Court entered judgment in
favor of Evans for $1, 000. Dkt. no. 77.
as the prevailing party, then filed the present fee petition.
Evans seeks fees for three attorneys: Michael Wood, Bryan
Thompson, and Andrew Finko, at hourly rates of $372, $340,
and $450, respectively. Together, the attorneys say they
worked 174.5 hours on this case. Evans seeks compensation for
their time as well as for expenses associated with filing the
case, delivering courtesy copies, service of summons,
coverage fees for another law firm, and production of
transcripts. In total, Evans requests $61, 157.20 in
attorney's fees and $1, 282.75 in expenses, plus another
$2, 120.40 related to the reply on the fee petition.
plaintiff who prevails under the FDCPA is entitled to an
award of costs and reasonable attorney's fees.
Schlacher v. Law Offices of Phillip J. Rotche &
Assocs., P.C., 574 F.3d 852, 856 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing
15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3)). Evans prevailed on her FDCPA
claim against Portfolio, who does not argue otherwise. Thus
she is entitled to reasonable attorney's fees and costs.
calculating reasonable attorney's fees, a court
"begins by calculating the lodestar-the attorney's
reasonable hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours
reasonably expended." Schlacher, 574 F.3d at
856 (citing Hensley v. Eckhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433-37
(1983)). The hourly rate is determined based on the market
rate for counsel's services. See Johnson v. GDF,
Inc., 668 F.3d 927, 933 (7th Cir. 2012). The party
seeking fees bears the burden of establishing this rate.
Id. The best route is to provide evidence of the
attorney's actual billing rate for similar work.
Id. If this is unavailable, the party may provide
"evidence of rates similarly experienced attorneys in
the community charge for paying clients for similar work and
evidence of fee awards the attorney has received in similar
cases." Id. Once the fee petitioner provides
evidence of this rate, the opposing party has the burden of
demonstrating why a lower rate should be awarded.
Gautreax v. Chicago Housing Auth., 491 F.3d 649,
659-60 (7th Cir. 2007). Portfolio challenges both the hourly
rates proposed by Evans and many of the billed hours as
Reasonableness of the requested rates
requests hourly rates of $372 for Wood, $340 for Thompson,
and $450 for Finko. She argues that these rates are
reasonable because they are the attorneys' actual billing
rates and they have been awarded these rates following fee
petitions in other cases.
has failed to show that these hourly rates are the
attorneys' actual billing rates. In support of this
contention, Evans has provided the Court with affidavits from
each attorney stating that these figures represent their
actual hourly rates. See Pl.'s Mot. for
Attorneys' Fees and Costs, Exs. B-D. An attorney's
"self-serving affidavit", however, cannot by itself
satisfy the plaintiff's burden of establishing the market
rate. Spegon v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 175 F.3d
544, 556 (7th Cir. 1999). Thus Evans must provide further
evidence in support of the requested rates. She argues that
she has done so by providing billing invoices sent by the
attorneys to other clients in which they charged the rates
requested here. But none of the invoices contain any charges
for work done by Thompson and therefore do not support an
hourly rate of $340 for his services. See Pl.'s
Mot. for Attorneys' Fees and Costs, Exs. B-C. There are
two invoices listing charges for services by Wood and Finko.
See id., Ex. B at Exs. 1-2. But one of these lists
an hourly rate for Wood of $352, not $372. And neither of
these cases was brought under the FDCPA; these invoices were
for a foreclosure defense case and a bankruptcy case. See
id. Thus these invoices do not establish that the hourly
rates Evans has requested for Wood and Finko represent their
actual billing rates for similar work.
next argues that other judges in this district have approved
the rates requested here for these attorneys in similar
cases. Pls.' Mot. for Attorneys' Fees and Costs 7-9.
She points to Stockman v. Global Credit & Collection
Corp., No. 14 C 6862, 2015 WL 4999851 (N.D. Ill. Aug.
21, 2015), in which this Court considered a fee petition that
included requests to compensate Wood and Thompson at $327 per
hour. Id. at *2. But the Court ultimately rejected
plaintiff's requested rates and awarded attorney's
fees based on an hourly rate of $300 for each attorney.
Id. at *4. Evans also cites Farooq v. Portfolio
Recovery, LLC, No. 15 C 6106, 2016 WL 2909650 (N.D. Ill.
May 19, 2016), another FDCPA case in which this Court
considered a fee petition by the same three attorneys
involved in this case. But just like Stockman, this
case does not support Evans's requested rates. In
Farooq, the plaintiff requested hourly rates of
$327, $327, and $450 for Wood, Thompson, and Finko,
respectively. Id. at *1. After a detailed analysis