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4CA nixes NoVa ‘Matrix’ fee, again

A credit reporting service has escaped the Matrix for payment of attorney’s fees for violating federal fair credit reporting statutes.

The popular “Laffey Matrix” schedule is used in the Washington, D.C., area to award attorney’s fees. For the second time in a year, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has told NoVa lawyers they need more than the Matrix to max out their attorney’s fees. They need affidavits from similarly situated lawyers.

An Alexandria federal district court applied the Matrix to award an identity-theft victim $268,652 on a $200,000 damage award. U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee acknowledged he was not bound by the Matrix. But he said the Matrix rates were reasonable in light of the expertise and experience of the plaintiff’s firm, Blankingship & Associates P.C.

Applying the Matrix bumped Hugo Blankingship’s fees from his standard hourly rate of $350 up to $425, and his associate’s fees from $250 to $305 per hour.

As the 4th Circuit previously has warned, neither the Matrix nor lead counsel’s affidavits are enough to support a fee award. In its March 16 published opinion in Robinson v. Equifax Information Services, an appellate panel affirmed the damage award but sent the case back for recalculation of the attorney’s fees after more evidence on the “prevailing rate.”
By Deborah Elkins

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