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Garcia v. Stanley

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

March 7, 2017



          BETH LABSON FREEMAN United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Marites Montemayor Garcia (“Plaintiff”) brings this action against Defendants Creditor Specialty Service, Inc. (“CSS”) and Charles Stanley, Jr. (“Stanley”), (collectively, “Defendants”) for alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et seq. (“FDCPA”), and the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1788 et seq. (“RFDCPA”). Having prevailed on summary judgment against Defendant Charles Stanley, Jr., Plaintiff moves for attorneys' fees and costs. ECF 113.

         Having considered the submissions, the relevant law, and the record in this case, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Plaintiff's motion for attorneys' fees and costs as follows.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit arises out of Defendants' attempt to collect consumer debts from Plaintiff. Plaintiff incurred a debt on a consumer credit account issued by Provident Credit Union. Garcia Decl. ¶ 3, ECF 93-4. After experiencing financial hardship, Plaintiff defaulted on the debt. Id. Thereafter, the debt was transferred to CSS for collection, where Stanley was an executive officer. Garcia Decl. ¶ 3; Stanley Dep. Tr. 28:6-25, ECF 93-6.

         On May 1, 2013, CSS mailed a collection letter in an envelope with a glassine window, which exposed portions of the envelope's contents. Garcia Decl. ¶¶ 5-6; Stip. Facts 2, ECF 93-3. Visible on the face of the envelope was CSS's name, its return address, a “large red dollar sign logo, ” Plaintiff's name, address, and the words “SPECIAL SETTLEMENT OFFER” in bold 14 point type were seen through the glassine window. Garcia Decl. ¶ 5, Ex. 1. After receiving this letter, Plaintiff filed suit on April 18, 2014, against CSS for allegedly violating the 15 U.S.C. sections 1692c(b), 1692f(7), and 1692f(8) (“FDCPA”) and Cal. Civil Code sections 1788.12(b), 1788.12(d), and 1788.17 (“RFDCPA”). Compl., ECF 1.

         The Court recounts briefly the procedural history of the case to illustrate the amount of litigation work that was done. After the complaint was filed, Defendant CSS did not timely respond. On June 11, 2014, Plaintiff moved for entry of default against CSS. The parties later stipulated to vacate default on July 16, 2014 and CSS answered the complaint on July 21, 2014. ECF 14, 20.

         On March 31, 2015, Plaintiff moved to compel discovery and for sanctions concurrently, because CSS had not served its initial disclosures by the October 30, 2014 deadline. ECF 27-1. In the motions, Plaintiff contended that CSS had also served objections to Plaintiff's discovery requests on December 2, 2014, but no documents had been produced. Id. After several meet-and-confers in February, CSS did not respond by the deadline set forth in Plaintiff's meet-and-confer letter and still had not served its disclosures or produce the requested documents when the motion to compel discovery was filed. Id. In response, CSS's counsel stated that due to an illness, an extension of time was necessary and made a request in an email soon after the deadline set forth in Plaintiff's meet-and-confer letter. ECF 33. The Court granted the motion to compel but denied the motion for sanctions. ECF 41 On June 8, 2015, Plaintiff moved for leave to amend the complaint because she had only learned in the week prior that CSS was operated by Charles Stanley and Stanley's involvement in the case. ECF 45-1. After the Court granted this unopposed motion, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint on August 5, 2015. ECF 53, 54. On August 31, 2015, Defendants moved to dismiss the first amended complaint in its entirety, including those directed to Charles Stanley, Jr. ECF 60. The parties also attended a mediation session on September 29, 2015 but did not settle.

         On December 17, 2015, this Court granted the motion to dismiss in part with leave to amend certain claims so that Plaintiff could allege adequate facts in connection with “display and publication” of “personal financial information.” ECF 73. Plaintiff then filed a second amended complaint on January 13, 2016, which Defendants moved to dismiss on March 17, 2016. ECF 74, 75. The Court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss the second amended complaint on June 16, 2016. ECF 87.

         Around this time in April 2016, Plaintiff moved to compel depositions and for discovery sanctions concurrently because Defendants failed to respond to the notices of deposition twice and for failure to appear. ECF 77-1. The Court granted the motion to compel depositions, denied the motion for sanctions, and ordered Defendants to reimburse Plaintiff's counsel for travel in the form of a reasonably priced round-trip air ticket from San Jose to Southern California. ECF 84.

         On July 21, 2016, Plaintiff moved for an entry of default against Defendants, who had failed to respond to the second amended complaint. ECF 89. Defendants responded that they had failed to respond only because of a clerical oversight and filed an answer the next day. ECF 90, 91.

         Plaintiff then moved for summary judgment on August 4, 2016, to which Defendants also failed to respond, believing that CSS's bankruptcy filing also stayed the case against Defendant Charles Stanley Jr. ECF 93, 94. After the Court's order clarifying that the case would not be stayed against the non-bankrupt Defendant, Charles Stanley, Jr., Defendant Stanley sought leave to file an opposition, which the Court later granted. ECF 96, 97, 98.

         In the order granting in part Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, the Court found in favor of Plaintiff with respect to certain sections of the FDCPA and FRDCPA, awarded $1, 500 in statutory damages, and reasonable costs and attorneys' fees. ECF 105. Plaintiff later voluntarily dismissed CSS without prejudice. ECF 107.

         Now before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for attorneys' fees and costs. Plaintiff seeks an award of $64, 620.00 for attorneys' fees and $2005.89 in costs and litigation expenses. Mot. 2, ECF 113. Defendant Stanley opposes the motion, claiming that the amount sought is unreasonable for several reasons. ...

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