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Delores Johnson v. Jp Morgan Chase Bank

December 1, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: /s/ Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge


I. Introduction

Pending before the Court is Plaintiff, Delores Johnson's ("Plaintiff") Motion for Attorney's Fees. (Docs. 249 - 254). Defendant, Bag Fund ("Defendant"), filed an opposition. (Doc. 260). Plaintiff filed a reply. (Doc. 263). The Court determined that the matter was suitable for decision without oral argument. Upon a review of the pleadings, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED IN PART. Plaintiff is awarded $56,770.00 in attorney's fees.

II. Relevant Background

On December 26, 2007, Plaintiff filed this action in Superior Court, County of Fresno (Case No. 07ECG04298). The action was removed to this Court on January 15, 2008. (Doc. 1). On March 26, 2008, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint alleging the following eight causes of action: (1) violations of Cal. Civil Code Section 1788 et seq, ("California's Fair Debt Collection Practices Act" or "the Rosenthal Act"); 2) violations of 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., ("the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or "FDCPA"); 3) defamation; 4) fraudulent misrepresentation; 5) negligent misrepresentation; 6) violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq ("RICO"); 7) violations of Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 et seq ("California's unfair competitionlaw"); and 8) intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 31).

This case involved several defendants and has an extensive procedural history which will not be outlined in detail for purposes of this order. However, in summary, all defendants and all claims were dismissed except for violations of the FDCPA, violations of California's unfair competitionlaw, and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Defendant Bag Fund. A four day jury trial was held. On May 14, 2010, the jury entered a verdict against Bag Fund finding that it had violated the FDCPA*fn1 and awarded Plaintiff $7,450.00 ($1,000.00 for emotional distress damages, $5,700 for other damages, and $750.00 for statutory damages). (Doc. 244). Judgment against Bag Fund in the amount of $7,450.00 was entered on May 24, 2010. (Doc. 246).

Plaintiff has filed the instant motion requesting $65,800.00 in attorney's fees. In opposition, Defendant argues that Plaintiff is not entitled to attorney's fees because the request is untimely and excessive. However, in the event the Court finds attorney's fees are warranted, Defendant argues Plaintiff should be not be awarded more than $11,315.70. In reply, Plaintiff argues that the requested amount is justified and reasonable.

III. Discussion

A. Timeliness

As a preliminary matter, the Court finds Bag Fund's argument that this motion is untimely is without merit. While Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 54(d)(2)(B)(i) mandates that motions for attorney's fees be filed no later than fourteen days after judgment, the rule also provides the fourteen day rule does not apply if a statute or court order provides otherwise. Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d)(2)(B)(i). In this district, Local Rule 293 provides that motions for attorney's fees shall be filed within twenty-eight days after entry of judgment. Judgment in this case was entered on May 24, 2010, and Plaintiff filed the Motion for Attorney's Fees on June 15, 2010. Therefore, the motion is timely. (Docs. 244 and 250). Eastwood v. National Enquirer, Inc. 123 F. 3d 1249, 1257(9th Cir. 1997) (Local rules are standing orders for purposes of Rule 54(d)).

B. The Lodestar Calculation

The FDCPA specifically authorizes an award of attorney's fees to a prevailing plaintiff.

15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3). The Court determines an attorney fee award by calculating the "lodestar figure" which entails taking the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation and multiplying it by a reasonable hourly rate. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983); Ferland v. Conrad Credit Corp., 244 F. 3d 1145, 1149 n. 4 (9th Cir. 2001) (In a FDCPA case, the district court must calculate awards for attorney's fees using the "lodestar method"). The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has outlined factors to consider for the reasonableness of attorney's fees:

In calculating reasonable attorney fees the court must consider the following factors: (1) the time and labor required, (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, (3) the skill ...

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