United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER GRANTING IN PART & DENYING IN PART
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES AS TO PDL
RECOVERY AND JAMIE BELSTADT (Doc. # 186)
F. Cox United States District Court Judge
originally filed this action on June 3, 2014, asserting
claims pursuant to Telephone Consumer Protection Act
(“TCPA”), the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(“FDCPA”), the Michigan Occupational Code
(“MOC”), and the Michigan Collection Practices
before the Court is Plaintiff's “Motion for
Attorney Fees as to PDL Recovery and Jamie Belstadt.”
(Doc. # 186, Pl.'s Mo.). Defendants have responded to the
motion (Doc. # 191, Def.s' Resp.), and Plaintiff has
replied. (Doc. # 215, Pl.'s Reply). Plaintiff asks for an
attorney fee award of $212, 234.80. To account for any
discrepancies, Plaintiff's amount reflects a 30%
across-the-board reduction to the total fee
(Pl.'s Reply at Pg ID 3020). The Court finds the facts
and legal arguments are adequately presented in the
parties' briefs such that oral argument will not
significantly aid in the decisional process. It is therefore
ordered that the motion will be resolved on the briefs
submitted. E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2).
reasons that follow, the Court shall GRANT in part
and DENY in part Plaintiff's motion.
Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED to the
extent that it seeks an award of attorney fees. However, the
motion is DENIED to the extent that it seeks
$212, 234.80 in fees. Instead, the Court awards Plaintiff
$153, 877, which is reasonable in light of the facts and
circumstances of this case.
threshold matter, the Court notes that this simple case has
been aggressively litigated by both parties - as evidenced by
the 216 docket entries over the course of three years.
3, 2014, Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to the TCPA,
FDCPA, MOC, and MCPA. Plaintiff originally named the
following as defendants in this case: PDL Recovery Group,
LLC, Avante Teleadvance, Inc., Mara Pfalzer, Benjamin J.
Hoey, Jamie Belstadt, Ronald Cobb, Vera B. Ray, and John Does
(1-20). (Doc. # 1). Sometime thereafter, Plaintiff settled
the TCPA claims against Avante Teleadvance, and he
voluntarily dismissed Benjamin Hoey and Ronald
29, 2015, Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint - the
operative complaint in this case. (Doc. # 48). The following
were named as defendants: PDL Recovery Group, LLC; V, Cobb
Associates, LLC; Mara Pfalzer; Jamie Belstadt; John Puglisi;
and Mike Hasson. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants violated
the TCPA by placing 11 unauthorized pre-recorded calls to
Plaintiff's cellular phone. Plaintiff also alleged that
Defendants violated the FDCPA and MOC by failing to send the
required notice under the Act and by placing harassing phone
calls to Plaintiff's place of employment in an effort to
collect on a debt.
the filing of the second amended complaint, Clerks Entries of
Default have been entered against Defendants V, Cobb
Associates, Puglisi, and Hasson. On August 10, 2016,
Plaintiff filed a partial motion for summary judgment,
seeking judgment in his favor against Defendants PDL,
Belstadt, and Pfalzer as to liability and statutory damages
under the TCPA, FDCPA, and MOC. (Doc. # 142, Pl.'s MSJ).
Court granted in part and denied in part Plaintiff's
motion. (Doc. # 170). The Court granted Plaintiff's
motion to the extent that he sought statutory damages against
PDL and Belstadt for willful violations of the TCPA. The
Court also granted Plaintiff's motion to the extent that
he sought statutory damages against PDL, Belstadt, and
Pfalzer for violations of certain subsections of the FDCPA
and the MOC. Plaintiff was subsequently ordered to file his
calculations for appropriate statutory damages. On March 9,
2017, Defendants filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which
the Court denied on May 1, 2017.
a status conference with the Court, the parties settled the
remainder of the case. Plaintiff settled his claims against
Mara Pfalzer and entered into a consent judgment for $50.
Defendants PDL and Belstadt entered into a Final Stipulated
Judgment with Plaintiff on May 10, 2017. (Doc. # 181). The
parties stipulated to a damage award of $22, 500 - $16, 500
statutory damages for the willful TCPA violations and $6, 000
statutory and actual damages for the violations under the
FDCPA and MOC. The parties also agreed to attempt to resolve
the attorney's fees and costs.
the parties were unable to resolve the issue of
attorney's fees, Plaintiff filed the instant motion on
July 10, 2017. Plaintiff contends that his attorneys have
expended 1, 170.6 hours litigating this case over the course
of three years, which results $298, 318.50 in attorney fees.
Plaintiff agrees to reduce his total fee award to $212,
234.80, which constitutes a 30% reduction. The motion has
been fully briefed by the parties.
support of his motion, Plaintiff submits a 115-page billing
statement, which chronologically lists the services rendered,
hours expended, and the billing attorney/staff member. (Ex. 1
to Pl.'s Mo.).
do not dispute that Plaintiff is entitled to attorney fees in
this action. However, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's
hourly rates are unreasonable, and that Plaintiff's
expended hours are excessive and unreasonable. Defendants
propose that: (1) Plaintiff's requested fees should be
reduced to $59, 663.70 (73% across-the-board reduction) to
reflect the proportion of the settlement award relating to
the FDCPA claims, i.e., to reflect limited success;
or (2) that Plaintiff's fees should be reduced by $126,
481 to account for improper billing, i.e., billing
time for clerical work, duplicative efforts, vague
descriptions, travel time, time relating to other defendants,
time for unnecessary discovery.
Court finds Plaintiff's requested fee of $212, 234.80
unreasonable. Plaintiff's proposed hourly rates are high.
And while Defendants' dilatory litigation (evading
Plaintiff's discovery efforts) strategy is partly to
blame, Plaintiff's attorneys over-staffed and over-billed
this straight forward case.
Plaintiff received partial summary judgment in his favor as
to the TCPA, FDCPA, and MOC, he is only entitled to attorney
fees as to his FDCPA and MOC claims. With respect to those
claims, Plaintiff's recovery in this case amounted to
approximately $6, 000. The FDCPA provides that a debt
collector who fails to comply with the Act is liable for
“the costs of the action, together with a reasonable
attorney's fee as determined by the court.” 15
U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3). Section 339.916(2) of the MOC
similarly provides for reasonable attorney fees.
calculate a reasonable attorney fee award, courts employ the
“lodestar method, ” which requires the Court to
multiply a reasonable hourly rate by the reasonable number of
hours worked. Ellison v. Balinski, 625 F.3d 953, 960
(6th Cir. 2010).
Reasonable Hourly Rates
general matter, an attorney's reasonable hourly rate is
calculated according to the “prevailing market rates in
the relevant community.” Blum v. Stenson, 465
U.S. 886, 897 (1984). The Sixth Circuit has explained that
“the ‘prevailing market rate' is that rate
which lawyers of comparable skill and experience can expect
to command within the venue of the court of record. . .
.” Adcock-Ladd v. Secy' of Treasury, 227
F.3d 343, 350 (6th Cir. 2000). The Sixth Circuit has
clarified that “[t]he appropriate rate ... is not
necessarily the exact value sought by a particular firm, but
is rather the market rate in the venue sufficient to
encourage competent representation.” Sykes v.
Anderson, 419 Fed. App'x 615, 618 (6th Cir. 2011)
(quoting Gonter v. Hunt Valve, Co., 510 F.3d 610,
618 (6th Cir. 2007)).
burden is on the prevailing attorney to justify the
reasonableness of a requested fee award. Blum, 456
U.S. at 896 n.11. Specifically, the fee applicant must
“produce satisfactory evidence-in addition to the
attorney's own affidavits-that the requested rates are in
line with those prevailing in the community for similar
services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill,
experience and reputation.” Id. The Court has
“broad discretion to determine what constitutes a
reasonable hourly rate for an attorney.” Wayne v.
Vill. of Sebring, 36 F.3d 517, 533
there is no dispute that the relevant community is the
Eastern District of Michigan.
requests the following rates:
Ian Lyngklip (admitted 1992; senior
$450 per hour
Julie Petrik (admitted 1992)
$350 per hour
Carl Schwartz (admitted 2007)
$250 per hour
Priya Bali (admitted 2014)
$250 per hour
Sylvia Bolos (admitted 2014)
$250 per hour
Amanda Logendyke Waldron (admitted 2013)
$200 per hour
Michael J. Bonvolanta (admitted 2015)
$200 per hour
Emily Reagan (admitted 2014)
$200 per hour
Laura Branco (paralegal)
$125 per hour
Mykayla Minock (legal assistant)
$50 per hour
Emily Reagan (law clerk through May 2014)
$100 per hour