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Donald R. Williams v. Midland Funding

June 15, 2012

DONALD R. WILLIAMS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MIDLAND FUNDING, LLC, MIDLAND CREDIT MANAGEMENT, INC., AND ENCORE CAPITAL GROUP, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeffrey T. Miller United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Donald Williams filed this case in October of 2011 alleging violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., and the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 1788 et seq. He claimed that Defendants' representatives made repeated telephone calls to his home in an effort to collect a debt from an individual unknown to Plaintiff. Despite the fact that Plaintiff and his wife repeatedly informed the callers that they had dialed an incorrect telephone number, the calls continued even after the complaint was filed in this case.

After the Early Neutral Evaluation Conference was held in front of Magistrate Judge Skomal, Defendants made an offer of judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 68 of $1,001 plus "reasonable attorneys' fees incurred and costs accrued" to the date of the offer. Plaintiff accepted the offer and the document was filed with the court on April 2, 2012. However, the parties were unable to agree on the appropriate amount of attorney's fees; Plaintiff has now moved for an award of $4,845.20 (based on 18.8 billable hours) under 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3) and Cal. Civ. Code § 1788.30(c). Defendants request that the court award a total of $1,887 based on a lower billing rate and a reduction to 8.3 billable hours. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED.

II. LEGAL STANDARD AND DISCUSSION

To determine the appropriate fee award, the court must use the "lodestar" method, in which the number of hours billed is multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate. Ferland v. Conrad Credit Corp., 244 F.3d 1145 at n.4 (9th Cir. 2001).

A. Rates Requested and Hours Billed

Attorney Amy Bennecoff1 states that she performed 11.4 hours of billable work on this lawsuit, which was comprised of meeting with Plaintiff, preparing pleadings, participating in the Early Neutral Evaluation Conference, reviewing court correspondence, communicating with Defendants' attorneys, and collaborating with others at her firm. While she claims that her normal rate is $300/hour, she has voluntarily reduced it by 7% to $278/hour. Applying that rate to the 11.4 hour total, the total bill for Ms. Bennecoff's work is $3,169.20.

Partner Craig Thor Kimmel2 spent one hour working on the case and reduced his normal rate of $425 to $400.

Ms. Bennecoff attended Widener University School of Law, graduated in 2005 and has been practicing since that year. She has performed plaintiff's litigation for her entire legal career, has held seminars and been a guest on television shows about legal issues.

Mr. Kimmel is a partner at the firm, was admitted to the bar in 1989, and formed his firm in 1991.

Attorney Jacob Ginsburg spent two hours on the case at the rate of $180/hour. He communicated with Plaintiff and assisted with drafting the pleadings. The total requested for Mr. Ginsburg is $360.

Paralegal Dawn Grob billed 1.9 hours on the case at a rate of $165/hour, and paralegal Jason Ryan spent 0.7 hours at $155/hour. Paralegal Pete Keltz billed 1.8 hours ...


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