United States District Court, D. Arizona
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Leslie Engle
Webb's (“Plaintiff”) Motion for
Attorneys' Fees (“Motion”) (Doc. 34).
Defendant Vial Fotheringham, LLP (“Vial
Fotheringham”) and Defendant Michael C. Lamb
(“Lamb”) (collectively, “Defendants”)
filed a Response (Doc. 36) and Plaintiff filed a Reply (Doc.
action is predicated on Defendants' actions in an Arizona
state court case (“State Court Action”). (Doc.
1). Vial Fotheringham is an Oregon law firm that regularly
acts as debt collector in Arizona and Lamb is one of its
attorneys. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants
violated the Fair Debt Collections Practice Act
(“FDCPA”) by filing a motion and affidavit for
entry of default judgment in the State Court Action on behalf
of Pueblo Hermoso Community Association. (Id.)
Plaintiff owned a condominium within the Pueblo
Hermoso Community Association. (Id.) The State Court
Action was initiated against Plaintiff seeking, among other
things, to collect unpaid assessments and other charges
relating to her condominium and requesting a money judgment
against Plaintiff. (Id. at 3). In the State Court
Action, Defendants allegedly overstated the amount of
Plaintiff's alleged debt by at least $1, 323.52 in the
proposed Default Judgment. (Id. at 3).
resolution of the State Court Action, the instant action was
filed. (Doc. 1). Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, which
the Court denied, finding that it was “procedurally and
substantively flawed.” (Docs. 10, 24). The parties
subsequently resolved this case and stipulated to the entry
of judgment in favor of Plaintiff. (Doc. 31). That
stipulation expressly stated that “Plaintiff is
entitled to an award of costs and reasonable attorney'
[sic] fees . . . .” (Id.) Plaintiff then filed
the instant Motion for Attorneys' Fees. (Doc. 34).
Motion pending before this Court, Plaintiff is seeking
attorney's fees in the amount of $17, 718.50. (Doc. 38 at
2). Defendants contend that Plaintiff's fee request is
unreasonable because Plaintiff only achieved limited success
and because Plaintiff's counsel billed excessive hours.
(Doc. 36 at 2-3). Thus, Defendants ask the Court to award no
more than $4, 000.00 in attorneys' fees. (Id. at
order to encourage private enforcement of the FDCPA, an award
of reasonable attorneys' fees is mandatory when a
plaintiff prevails on his or her claim. Camacho v.
Bridgeport Fin., Inc., 523 F.3d 973, 978 (9th Cir.
2008); see also Tolentino v. Friedman, 46 F.3d 645,
651 (7th Cir. 19950) (holding the reason for these mandatory
fees “is that congress chose a ‘private attorney
general' approach to assume enforcement of the
FDCPA.”). FDCPA plaintiffs “seek to vindicate
important . . . rights that cannot be valued solely in
monetary terms . . . and congress has determined that the
public as a whole has an interest in the vindication of
statutory rights.” Id. at 652 (quoting
City of Riverside v. Rivera, 477 U.S. 561, 574
FDCPA cases, “[d]istrict courts must calculate awards
for attorney's fees using the ‘lodestar'
method.” Ferland v. Conrad Credit Corp., 244
F.3d 1145, 1149 n.4 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Caudle v.
Bristow Optical Co., 224 F.3d 1014, 1028 (9th Cir.
2000); Morales v. City of San Rafael, 96 F.3d 359,
363 (9th Cir. 1996)). “The ‘lodestar' is
calculated by multiplying the number of hours the prevailing
party reasonably expended on the litigation by a reasonable
hourly rate.” Morales, 96 F.3d at 363; see
also Ferland, 244 F.3d at 1149 n.4. “Although the
lodestar is presumptively a reasonable fee award, the
district court may, if circumstances warrant, adjust the
lodestar to account for other factors which are not subsumed
within it.” Ferland, 244 F.3d at 1149 n.4
(citations omitted). District courts have “a great deal
of discretion in determining the reasonableness of the
fee.” Camacho, 523 F.3d at 978.
the Court finds, and Defendants do not disagree, that the
hourly rate charged by Plaintiff's counsel is reasonable.
See St. Bernard v. State Collection Serv., Inc., 782
F.Supp.2d 823, 827 (D. Ariz. 2010) (finding a $350 per hour
is a reasonable rate for an FDCPA case filed in the Phoenix
area). Thus, the next question is whether the hours billed by
Plaintiff's counsel-here a total of 62.6 hours, which
includes time expended on Plaintiff's Motion and her
Reply in support of her Motion-are reasonable. (Doc. 38 at 2
n.1). Arguing that they are not, Defendants contend that
Plaintiff's counsel billed excessively in drafting the
complaint and in responding to Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss. (Doc. 36 at 3).
argue that given the prior litigation and the fact that
Plaintiff's counsel was experienced in FDCPA cases,
“it ought not to have taken Webb's attorneys more
than four hours to draft the fact section of the
pleading.” (Doc. 36 at 3). However, upon review of
Plaintiff's billing records, it appears Plaintiff's
counsel actually spent less than three hours drafting the
entire Complaint. (Doc. 34-1 at 11). The Court finds this
time to be reasonable. See St. Bernard, 782
F.Supp.2d 823, 827 (D. Ariz. 2010) (finding that five hours
was a reasonable amount of time for an “experienced
litigator of FDCPA claims” to spend drafting a
also argue that because their Motion to Dismiss was
“weak, ” it should only have taken
Plaintiff's counsel ten hours to draft a response instead
of the twenty-five hours Plaintiff's counsel billed in
connection with the response. (Doc. 36 at 4). However,
Defendants failed to provide any concrete explanation as to
why twenty-five hours was excessive or why ten hours would
have been sufficient. Moreover, the Court finds this argument
flawed and counterintuitive. Defendants are correct that the
Court held that their Motion to Dismiss was
“procedurally and substantively flawed[;]”
however, Plaintiff was still forced to respond to defend her
Complaint. The Court knows of no authority, and nor does
Defendants provide any authority, that stands for the
proposition that a response to a “procedurally and
substantively flawed” motion to dismiss should take
less time than a response to a well plead and drafted motion
to dismiss. Thus, Defendants have not met their burden to
prove that Plaintiff's attorneys excessively billed for
their Response to Defendants Motion to Dismiss. See
Christopher v. RJM Acquisitions LLC, 2015 WL 3960163, at
*4 (D. Ariz. June 30, 2015) (holding that “[d]efendant
has not met its burden to prove that [p]laintiff's
attorneys excessively billed” because defendant failed
to provide an explanation as to why the time expended was
excessive). Upon review of the billing records the Court
finds that the hours expended and the billing rate were
reasonable; thus, the Court finds Plaintiff's requested
attorneys' fees award to be presumptively reasonable
under the lodestar method.
next argues that Plaintiff only had limited success in this
litigation because she only received statutory damages even
though in her Complaint she also sought actual damages;
therefore, Defendant avers that Plaintiff's limited
success warrants a reduction in a fee award. (Doc. 36 at 3).
A district court may, in its discretion, make reduction in a
fee award on that basis. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461
U.S. 424, 436(1983). However, courts have been reluctant to
reduce fee awards on the basis of a low monetary recovery in
FDCPA cases becasue statutory damages are capped at $1,
000.00. See Defenbaugh v. JBC & Associates,
Inc., 2004 WL 1874978, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 10, 2004).
Moreover, as “the FDCPA provides for mandatory fee
awards to the prevailing party because ‘congress chose
a ‘private attorney general' approach to assume
enforcement of the FDCPA[;]'” the FDCPA's
“purpose would be frustrated if attorney's fees
were limited such that attorneys working on FDCPA cases could
not recover fees out of proportion” to the statutory
damages maximum of $1, 000.00. Garcia v. Resurgent
Capital Services, L.P., 2012 WL 3778852, at *10 (N.D.
Cal. Aug. 30, 2012) (quoting Camacho, 523 F.3d at
978). Thus, although Plaintiff received only the maximum
statutory damages here, this settlement does not reflect a
lack of success. Defenbaugh, 2004 WL 1874978, at *4
(rejecting the argument that plaintiff, who recovered the
statutory maximum of $1, 000.00 under FDCPA, only achieved
limited success). To the contrary, Plaintiff received the
maximum statutory damages allowable under the FDCPA.
Therefore, the Court will not, as Defendants suggest, reduce
Plaintiffs presumptively reasonable requested attorneys'
fees award based on Plaintiffs recovery amount. Accordingly,
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs Motion for
Attorneys' Fees (Doc. 34) is GRANTED.
Plaintiff is hereby awarded attorneys' fees in the amount
of $17, 718.50;
IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of Court shall