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Hagen v. Messerli & Kramer, P.A.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 30, 2015

Della Virginia Hagen, Plaintiff,
v.
Messerli & Kramer, P.A., Defendant.

Prentiss E. Cox, Esq., Jean M. Sanderson, Esq. and University of Minnesota Law Center, counsel for plaintiff.

Derrick N. Weber, Esq. and Messerli & Kramer, counsel for defendant.

ORDER

DAVID S. DOTY, District Judge.

This matter is before the court upon the motion for attorney's fees and nontaxable expenses by plaintiff Della Virginia Hagen. Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants the motion in part.

BACKGROUND

This debt-collection dispute arises out of communications made by defendant Messerli & Kramer, P.A. (M&K) to Hagen regarding a consumer debt. Hagen filed suit on March 28, 2014, alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). In support of her claim, Hagen argued that M&K mailed her debt collection letters after receiving a written cease request under 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(c). The court granted summary judgment to Hagen on January 13, 2015, and awarded $1, 000 in statutory damages under § 1692k(a)(2)(A). ECF No. 39. Thereafter, Hagen moved for $27, 870 in attorney's fees and $110 in nontaxable expenses. ECF No. 41. On February 20, 2015, the clerk of court taxed $400 in favor of Hagen. ECF No. 49.

DISCUSSION

A debt collector who fails to comply with the provisions of the FDCPA must pay, "in the case of any successful action to enforce the foregoing liability, the costs of the action, together with a reasonable attorney's fee as determined by the court." 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3). M&K does not contest that Hagen was successful in this action. As a result, only the reasonableness of the requested fees and costs is at issue.

I. Attorney's Fees

Because of the court's extensive contact with the parties and familiarity with the issues, determination of the reasonable amount of attorney's fees is "peculiarly within the... court's discretion." Greater Kan. City Laborers Pension Fund v. Thummel, 738 F.2d 926, 931 (8th Cir. 1984). "The starting point in determining attorney fees is the lodestar, which is calculated by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by the reasonable hourly rates." Hanig v. Lee, 415 F.3d 822, 825 (8th Cir. 2005) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In assessing the reasonableness of fees, the court considers:

(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions; (3) the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly; (4) the preclusion of employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case;

(5) the customary fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorneys; (10) the "undesirability" of the case; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar cases.

Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 430 n.3 (1983). In calculating the reasonable number of hours expended, the court excludes hours that are "excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary." Id. at 434.

Hagen's counsel requests reimbursement for 207.2 hours of work, at hourly rates ranging from $350 for Prentiss Cox, Professor at the University of Minnesota's Legal Clinic, to $100 for the four student attorneys assigned to the case. See Cox Aff. Ex. A; Moe Aff. Ex. A. M&K does not take issue with these rates, and the court finds that they are reasonable. See Ash v. Malacko, No. 14-590, 2014 WL 4384475, at *4 (D. Minn. Sept. 4, 2014) (affirming identical rates for legal clinic pursuing FDCPA action). M&K does argue, however, that the fee award should be reduced to $10, 500 to account for time that is redundant, excessive, ...


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