United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S PETITION FOR ATTORNEY'S
FEES AND COSTS
Matthew F. Kennelly United States District Judge.
Battle retained attorneys Michael J. Wood and Celetha C.
Chatman of Community Lawyers Group, Ltd. regarding a debt
collection suit filed against her by Midland Funding, LLC,
Midland Credit Management, Inc., and Encore Capital Group,
Inc. (collectively, Midland). Counsel sent a letter to
Midland on June 28, 2017 disputing the debt, which originated
from a defaulted Citibank N.A. consumer credit account. On
August 14, 2018, Battle filed suit against Midland in federal
court under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, alleging
that Midland had failed to communicate to a credit reporting
agency that the debt was disputed.
October 13, 2018, Midland served Battle with an offer of
judgment, proposing entry of judgment in her favor in the
amount of $1, 100 in statutory damages, plus reasonable
attorney's fees and costs. Battle filed an acceptance of
the offer on October 15, 2018, and the Court directed entry
of judgment that same date. Battle, as the prevailing party,
then filed a petition for attorney's fees and costs,
seeing compensation for 13.4 hours by attorneys Wood and
Chatman, plus $500 in costs consisting of the filing fee and
the cost of service of summons. Midland opposes the fee
petition on various grounds.
plaintiff who prevails in a FDCPA suit is entitled recover to
costs and reasonable attorney's fees. 15 U.S.C.
§1692k(a)(3); Schlacher v. Law Offices of Phillip J.
Rotche & Assocs., P.C., 574 F.3d 852, 856 (7th Cir.
2009). In calculating reasonable attorney's fees, a court
generally begins by determining the so-called lodestar, that
is, the attorney's reasonable hourly rate multiplied by
the number of hours reasonably expended. Schlacher,
574 F.3d at 856 (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461
U.S. 424, 433-37 (1983)). In determining the lodestar, a
court should exclude any hours that were not "reasonably
expended." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434. The moving
party should make a good faith effort to exclude from a fee
request any hours that were "excessive, redundant, or
otherwise unnecessary." Id. at 434.
case, the parties have stipulated to a rate of $300 per hour
for both Wood and Chatman. At this rate, the amount of fees
Battle has requested is $4, 020.
initial matter, the Court overrules Midland's request to
deny the fee petition outright on the ground that
Battle's counsel failed to comply with Local Rule 54.3.
Battle has provided Midland with records specifying the hours
for which Battle sought compensation and supporting the
requested costs, making any technical noncompliance harmless.
also contends that the attorneys' billing records are
unreliable; the attorney time claimed is excessive; some of
the time claimed involves administrative tasks not properly
compensable at attorney rates; and the lodestar should be
reduced based on the factors listed in Hensley. The
Court will deal with each argument in turn.
Errors in billing records
Midland asks the Court to overrule the fee petition or reduce
the fee award because counsel's billing records are
unreliable and contain falsehoods. The billing records
attached to Battle's original motion did contain a number
of errors, but after this was called to counsel's
attention, the Court granted Battle leave to withdraw these
records and resubmit the motion with the corrected records
attached. The errors in the original submission involved an
attachment unrelated to this case.
also says that Battle's counsel has a history of
misrepresentations regarding billing records and fee
petitions, but the Court sees no reason to address anything
other than the submission presented here and thus will not
strike the fee petition on this basis.
identifies three claimed errors with the corrected billing
records: the entry of a client intake date about a year after
counsel first took on Battle's case; a claimed
discrepancy between the complaint and the billing records
regarding the date when Battle or counsel obtained her credit
report; and inconsistent information stating that Battle
rejected a settlement offer.
Midland questions an entry for client intake dated July 24,
2018, pointing out that counsel wrote a dispute letter to
Midland on her behalf over a year earlier. Battle responds,
however, that counsel represented her in separate state and
federal cases and conducted independent intake meetings to
address each. This is a reasonable explanation; the Court
finds no error in the records.
Midland contends that Battle alleges in her complaint that
she obtained her credit report on July 16, 2018, but the
billing records say that counsel obtained it on August 4,
2018. This is a misreading of the complaint. It alleges that
"[o]n July 16, 2018, Midland communicated credit
information regarding the alleged debt." Compl.
¶25. That statement, supported by Exhibit G, is an
allegation that Midland reported debt ...