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Firneno v. Radner Law Group, PLLC

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 25, 2017

JODY FIRNENO and CHRISTOPHER FRANKE, Plaintiffs,
v.
RADNER LAW GROUP, PLLC, et al., Defendants.

          R. STEVEN WHALEN MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES [175]

          STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion for attorney fees and non-taxable expenses incurred over four years of hard-fought litigation in a Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) case. Plaintiffs initiated the case on January 14, 2013 and eventually accepted offers of judgment from Defendants 800 Zero Debt, LLC and Radner Law Group, PLLC. See ECF 104, 162-64. The Court entered corresponding judgments, see ECF 168-71, and closed the case after Plaintiffs reached a separate settlement with Defendant Lasercom, LLC.[1] See ECF 172, 173.

         All that remains to resolve is the amount of recoverable fees and expenses: Plaintiffs seek $133, 573.73 of the former and $4, 819.37 of the latter, ECF 175, while Defendants claim only $37, 659.00 should be awarded, ECF 178. Having witnessed firsthand the history of the case and considered the parties' extensive briefing, the Court finds that a hearing is not necessary. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f); see also Michael A. Cramer, MAI, SRPA, Inc. v. United States, 47 F.3d 379, 384 n.5 (10th Cir. 1995) (collecting cases).

         In the case of a successful action to enforce liability for a defendant's willful statutory violation, the FCRA allows the plaintiff to recover "the costs of the action together with reasonable attorney's fees as determined by the court." 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681n(a)(3), 1681o(a)(2). Recoverable fees are "reasonable" if they adequately attract competent counsel without producing a windfall or representing economic waste. Lee v. Thomas & Thomas, 109 F.3d 302, 306-07 (6th Cir. 1997).

         Plaintiffs' attached invoices detail the breakdown of their work as follows:

Attorney Fees

Lyngklip and Associates Fees

$ 129, 443.23

Bailey and Glasser Fees

$ 4, 130.50

Non-Taxable Expenses

$ 4, 819.37

TOTAL

$ 138, 393.10

         The approximate breakdown of requested fees is as follows:

Lyngklip & Associates

NAME

TITLE

RATE

HOURS (~)

Ian Lyngklip

Senior Partner

$ 450 / hour

~ 95 hours

Julie Petrik

Senior Associate

$ 350 / hour

~ 178 hours

Carl Schwartz

Associate

$ 250 / hour

~ 40 hours

Priya Bali

Associate

$ 200 / hour

~ 30 hours

Michael Bonvolanta

Associate

$ 200 / hour

~ 15 hours

Amanda Longendyke

Associate

$ 200 / hour

~ 5 hours

Alanna [last name omitted]

Associate

$ 200 / hour

~ 2 hours

Laura Branco

Paralegal

$ 125 / hour

~ 3 hours

Emily Reagan

Paralegal

$ 100 / hour

~ 22 hours

Kristen Herrmann

Paralegal

$ 100 / hour

~ 5 hours

Natalka Storoshchuk

Paralegal

$ 100 / hour

~ 1.5 hours

Kylie Johnson

Paralegal

$ 100 / hour

~ 0.2 hours

Bailey & Glasser

NAME

TITLE

RATE

HOURS (~)

John Barrett

Partner

$ 450 / hour

~ 1 hour

Maryl Sattler

Associate

$ 310 / hour

~ 8.7 hours

Ryan Donovan

Associate

$ 275 / hour

~ 0.2 hours

Denise Milhoan

Paralegal

$ 195 / hour

~ 4.3 hours

Michael Kessinger

Legal Assistant

$ 90 / hour

~ 0.5 hours

ECF 175-3, 175-4, 175-5.

         First, the Court considers the prevailing market rate charged by lawyers of comparable experience in the "venue of the court of record." Adcock-Ladd v. Secretary of Treasury, 227 F.3d 343, 350 (6th Cir. 2000). Plaintiffs contend that their fees are reasonable in light of the 2015-16 United States Consumer Law Attorney Fee Survey Report, which suggests that the average hourly rate for an attorney at a small Midwestern firm is $375.00. ECF 175-2. The survey is silent as to the prevailing market rate for consumer law attorneys in southeastern Michigan, but the amount is close to the median hourly rate for consumer law attorneys listed by the State Bar of Michigan-$335.[2] Only Mr. Lyngklip's and Mr. Barrett's hourly rates exceed both figures. Given Mr. Lyngklip's extensive experience, the Court will apply a rate of $400 per hour of his work, and $375 per hour of Mr. Barrett's work, reducing the requested amount by $4, 807.00.

         The Court also considers other factors when determining the "lodestar amount"-the product of a reasonable number of hours and a reasonable rate. Isabel v. City of Memphis, 404 F.3d 404, 415 (6th Cir. 2005). Here, the documentation offered in support of the hours charged is, for the most part, "of sufficient detail and probative value to enable the court to determine with a high degree of certainty that such hours were actually and reasonably expended in the prosecution of the litigation." United Slate, Tile & Composition Roofers, Damp & Waterproof Workers Ass'n, Local 307 v. G & M Roofing & Sheet Metal Co., 732 F.2d 495, 502 n.2 (6th Cir. 1984).

         Five of the lodestar factors are particularly relevant here. Plaintiffs' attorneys expended a tremendous amount of time and labor to prosecute this case-four years' worth of docket entries, including motions to compel discovery, successful opposition to Defendants' motions to dismiss, partially successful opposition to a motion to strike or dismiss an amended complaint, and complex Court-ordered supplemental briefing. See, e.g., ECF 41, 80, 81, 90, 102. They addressed difficult questions that arose, including a novel standing issue that emerged in the wake of Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins,136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016). And they approached each juncture with the skill and strategy necessary to obtain an indisputably positive result for their clients, which is "the most critical factor in determining the reasonableness of a fee award." Isabel, 404 F.3d at 416 (quotations omitted); ECF ...


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