United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge.
Elisa Franco moves for costs and attorney’s fees in
connection with her successful action raising a claim under
the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1601, et.
seq. (“TILA”). Franco seeks $15, 500 on the
basis of the costs expended plus a $400 hourly rate (for her
attorney), $150 hourly rate (for the attorney’s
paralegal), and $95 (for the attorney’s legal
assistant) multiplied by the number of hours expended.
Defendants A Better Way Wholesale Autos., Inc.
(“ABW”) and BCI Financial Corp.
(“BCI”) oppose on the grounds that some of the
hours expended concern withdrawn state-law claims and that
the attorney’s fees are disproportionate to the damages
awarded. For the following reasons, the Court awards costs
and attorney’s fees in the amount of $15, 358.43.
and Procedural Background
action arises out of Franco’s purchase of a used car
from ABW and the assignment of the financing agreement to
BCI. ECF No. 1 (Compl.). Franco’s original complaint
asserted a TILA claim as well as state-law claims for
violation of the Connecticut Retail Installment Sales Finance
Act, for violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices
Act, and for breach of the implied warranty of
merchantability. Id. at ¶ 1. The Court granted
summary judgment for Franco on the TILA claim (the only claim
subject to a motion for summary judgment by either party).
ECF No. 42. Franco then voluntarily withdrew her state-law
claims by filing an amended complaint that omitted them. ECF
No. 51 (Order). The Court entered judgment in Franco’s
favor. ECF No. 54.
now moves for costs and attorney’s fees in the amount
of $15, 500. ECF No. 50. She argues that her counsel’s
experience, reputation, and ability warrant an hourly fee of
$400 (for her attorney), $150 hourly rate (for her
attorney’s paralegal), and $95 (for her attorney’s
legal assistant) and that these rates are commiserate with
fees charged by other Connecticut firms on similar matters.
ECF No. 50-2 at ¶¶ 5-6. She submits detailed
billing records showing that the hourly rates multiplied by
the time expended equals $14, 529.50, that costs amounted to
$933.43, and that total expenditure was thus $15, 462.93.
Id. at 4-19 (Ex. A). Defendants oppose on two
grounds: the hours expended improperly include time spent on
the withdrawn state-law claims, and the fees are
disproportionate to the amount of damages awarded. ECF No.
59. Defendant seeks an evidentiary hearing to contest this
calculation. Id. Franco replies that he omitted any
time spent on the state-law claims, that proportionality is
irrelevant, and that Defendants waived their objections by
failing to identify a single charge as excessive. ECF No. 60.
permits a prevailing party to recover costs and
attorney’s fees. 15 U.S.C. § 1640(a)(3). The
question of attorney’s fees raises a question of
federal law where, as here, the action is founded on
federal-question jurisdiction. In re Citigroup
S’holder Derivative Litig., 2013 WL 4441511, at *3
n.4 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 19, 2013), aff’d sub nom. Moskal
v. Pandit, 576 F. App’x 33 (2d Cir. 2014). The
Second Circuit applies the presumptively-reasonable-fee
standard-that is, multiplying the hours reasonably expended
by a reasonable hourly rate. McDaniel v. County of
Schenectady, 595 F.3d 411, 417 n.2 (2d Cir.
2010). To do so, a district court “engage[s]
in a four-step process: (1) determine the reasonable hourly
rate; (2) determine the number of hours reasonably expended;
(3) multiply the two to calculate the presumptively
reasonable fee; and (4) make any appropriate adjustments to
arrive at the final fee award.” Silver v. Law
Offices Howard Lee Schiff, P.C., 2010 WL 5140851, at *1
(D. Conn. Dec. 16, 2010) (citations omitted)). A district
court also considers the factors outlined in in Johnson
v. Ga. Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th
Cir. 1974). See Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens
Neighborhood Ass’n v. Cnty of Albany, 522 F.3d 184
(2d Cir. 2008). The prevailing party bears the burden of
showing the presumptively reasonable fee. See Cruz v.
Local Union No. 3 of Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers,
34 F.3d 1148, 1160 (2d Cir. 1994). Once established, the
opposing party bears the burden of justifying a reduction.
See U.S. Football League v. National Football
League, 887 F.2d 408, 413 (2d Cir. 1989) (“We note
that a party advocating the reduction of the lodestar amount
bears the burden of establishing that a reduction is
review of the motion, memorandum, declaration, and attached
documentation and applying the above standards, the Court
finds that the hourly rates for the attorney and paralegal
are reasonable, that no unnecessary work was performed by
these individuals, that multiplying these figures amounts to
$14, 425.00, and that no reduction is warranted. The Court
does not award damages for the work performed by the legal
assistant because clerical services such as making telephone
calls, proofreading, and preparing documents are not
compensable. See Kottwitz v. Colvin, 114 F.Supp.3d
145, 148 (S.D.N.Y. 2015) (“This Court also agrees with
Judge Netburn’s conclusion that no attorney’s fee
award is appropriate for clerical tasks.”). The Court
also finds that costs in the amount of $933.43 are
reasonable. The Court thus awards damages in the amount of
unsupported opposition offers no reason for this Court to
second-guess Franco’s supported request for costs and
attorney’s fees or this Court’s independent
analysis of that supported request. Defendants do not
challenge the reasonableness of the hourly rates. This Court
has already determined that a rate of $400 per hour for work
performed by experienced counsel in relation to similar
federal statutes is reasonable. See Bundy v. NCE Fin.
Srvs. Inc., 10-cv-1462 (awarding attorney’s fees
in FDCPA suit at $400/hour). In the absence of any objection,
the Court follows its own precedent.
Defendants challenge the amount of time expended, arguing
that Franco’s calculation includes time expended on
withdrawn state-law claims. This specific objection is
unfounded. Franco’s counsel, in a sworn declaration,
averred that he “removed the charges for all work that
was performed in connection with the claims” and
“reduced the amount being sought for certain entries in
which the time spent was greater than would otherwise have
been the case because some of that work pertained to claims
that are not being pursued at trial.” ECF No. 50-2 at
¶¶ 9-10. This declaration is supported by the
reductions on the billing schedule. Id. at 4-19 (Ex.
A). Defendants’ unfounded assertions to the contrary
provide no basis for casting doubt on the sworn statements by
a member of this Court’s bar.
offer no specific challenges to the amount of time expended.
The failure to make any specific challenges results in
waiver. See, e.g., Ceglia v.
Zuckerberg, 2013 WL 2535849, at *5 (W.D.N.Y. June 10,
2013) (“Plaintiff does not challenge a single entry in
the Billing Schedule Defendants submit in support of these
hours as excessive, redundant or unnecessary. In the absence
of specific objections to the number of hours claimed, the
district judge cannot be expected to review, evaluate and
rule on every entry in an attorney’s fee
application.”); Turley v. New York City Police
Dep’t, 1998 WL 760243, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 30,
1998) (“Therefore, on the basis of the record that I
can review and in the absence of a specific challenge by
defendants’ counsel, I recommend that defendants’
argument that plaintiff's request for attorney’s
fees be reduced by twenty percent be rejected.”). And
the Court is under no obligation to hold an evidentiary
hearing to permit Defendants to concoct one. See Blum v.
Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 892 n.5 (1984) (“We decline
to consider petitioner’s further argument that the
hours charged by respondents’ counsel were
unreasonable. As noted above, petitioner failed to submit to
the District Court any evidence challenging the accuracy and
reasonableness of the hours charged, . . . or the facts
asserted in the affidavits submitted by respondents’
counsel. It therefore waived its right to an evidentiary
hearing in the District Court.” (internal citation
also argue that the attorney’s fees are
disproportionate to the damages awarded. This objection lacks
an arguable basis in law. Attorney’s fees in a TILA
case need not be proportionate to the damages awarded.
See Negron v. Mallon Chevrolet, Inc., 2012 WL 4358634,
at *4 (D. Conn. Sept. 24, 2012) (“Such an argument
cannot be grounded in a lack of proportion between the amount
of attorney’s fees requested and the size of the award
attained, as TILA, like many other consumer protection and
civil rights statutes, ‘was enacted in part to secure
legal representation for plaintiffs whose . . . injury was
too small, in terms of expected monetary recovery, to create
an incentive for attorneys to take the case under
conventional fee arrangements.’” (citing
Kassim v. Schenectady, 415 F.3d 246, 252 (2d Cir.
2005)). Franco obtained the statutory maximum amount of
damages on her TILA claim, and the attorney’s fees
reflect only the work performed on her entirely successful
final observations. Defendants cite-without
justification-only cases applying the laws of Connecticut,
Washington, and Michigan. But federal law applies here. See
In re Citigroup S’holder Derivative Litig., 2013
WL 4441511, at *3 n.4. The Court does not grant relief to
represented parties when they fail to state a valid legal
objection. Cf. Local R. Civ. P. 7(a)1
(“Failure to submit a memorandum in opposition to a
motion may be deemed sufficient cause to grant the motion,
except where the pleadings provide sufficient grounds to deny
the motion.”). ...