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Garcia v. Law Offices Howard Lee Schiff, P.C.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 4, 2019

LUIS GARCIA, Plaintiff,
v.
LAW OFFICES HOWARD LEE SCHIFF, P.C., Defendant.

          RULING AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Luis Garcia (“Plaintiff”) has moved for an order awarding attorneys' fees and costs under 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) against the Law Offices of Howard Lee Schiff (“Defendant” or “the Schiff firm”). Mot. for Attorney's Fees, ECF No. 95 (Aug. 30, 2019). Mr. Garcia requests $67, 707.50 in attorney's fees.

         For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees and costs in part and awards attorney's fees and costs to Mr. Garcia in the amount of $50, 085.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On May 23, 2016, Mr. Garcia sued the Schiff firm, alleging that he had received a debt collection letter from the firm on or around February 12, 2016. Compl. ¶ 9, ECF No. 1 (May 23, 2016). The parties engaged in pre-trial litigation activity for three years. See ECF Nos. 9-85.

         On August 15, 2019, after a one-day bench trial on May 20, 2019, the Court ruled that the Schiff firm had sent a materially misleading letter to Mr. Garcia in violation of the FDCPA, the Schiff firm was not entitled to the bona fide error defense to strict liability under the FDCPA, and awarded $500 in damages under the FDCPA. Mem. of Decision and Order, ECF No. 93 (Aug. 15, 2019).

         On August 30, 2019, Mr. Garcia filed a motion for attorney's fees and costs. Mot. Attorney's Fees, ECF No. 95 (Aug. 30, 2019). In support of his motion, Mr. Garcia submitted a memorandum of law, declarations by his attorneys, Yaakov Saks, Rachel Drake, and Raphael Deutsch, a declaration by Jenny Padron, a paralegal, and an itemized list of time and expense charges. ECF Nos. 95-1-95-5 (Aug. 30, 2019).

         On September 20, 2019, the Schiff firm submitted a memorandum in opposition to Plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees. Mem. Opp. Mot. Attorney's Fees, ECF No. 96 (Sept. 20, 2019) (“Def.'s Opp.”). In support of its opposition, the Schiff firm submitted Mr. Garcia's first request for admissions, Mr. Garcia's responses to a number of the Schiff firm's discovery requests, the settlement conference order in this case, the deposition of Mr. Garcia, a letter from counsel for the Schiff firm (another member of Schiff firm) to Mr. Garcia's counsel, and various filings from both this case and other cases in which Mr. Garcia's counsel has been involved. ECF Nos. 96-1-96-13 (Sept. 20, 2019).

         On September 27, 2019, Mr. Garica replied to the Schiff firm's opposition. Reply, ECF No. 97 (Sept. 27, 2019).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Any debt collector found in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is also liable for “the costs of the action, together with a reasonable attorney's fee as determined by the court.” 15 U.S.C.A. § 1692k(a)(3). To determine attorney's fees, “a district court should consider the rate [a] reasonable, paying client would pay, and use that rate to calculate the presumptively reasonable fee.” Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Ass'n v. Cty. of Albany & Albany Cty. Bd. of Elections, 522 F.3d 182, 193 (2d Cir. 2008).

         To determine a “reasonable” hourly rate, the court should consider factors including, but not limited to, the following:

the complexity and difficulty of the case, the available expertise and capacity of the client's other counsel (if any), the resources required to prosecute the case effectively (taking account of the resources being marshaled on the other side but not endorsing scorched earth tactics), the timing demands of the case, whether an attorney might have an interest (independent of that of his client) in achieving the ends of the litigation or might initiate the representation himself, whether an attorney might have initially acted pro bono (such that a client might be aware that the attorney expected low or non-existent remuneration), and other returns (such as reputation, etc.) that an attorney might expect from the representation.

Id. at 184. The court should also consider the prevailing market rates charged in the district where the plaintiff brought the case. Id. at 190.

         Then, to arrive at a “presumptively reasonable fee, ” the court should multiply “a reasonable hourly rate [by] the reasonable number of hours required by the case.” Millea v. Metro-North Ry. Co., 658 F.3d 154, 166 (2d. Cir. 2011); see also Silver v. Law Offices Howard Lee Schiff, P.C., No. 3:09-cv-912 PCD, 2010 WL 5140851, at *2 (D. Conn. Dec. 16, 2010) (“After determining the reasonable hourly rate for an attorney, the Court must examine the hours expended by the attorney, review them for reasonableness, and exclude any excessive or unnecessary hours.”) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         “The FDCPA provides for fee-shifting as a matter of course to successful plaintiffs.” Jacobson v. Healthcare Fin. Servs., Inc., 516 F.3d 85, 95 (2d Cir. 2008). “Where a plaintiff prevails [under the FDCPA], whether or not [s]he is entitled to an award of actual or statutory damages, [s]he should be awarded costs and reasonable attorney's fees in amounts to be fixed in the ...


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