Where the court previously held the defendant violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, by attempting to collect a disputed debt from a couple despite notice from their attorney, the couple were awarded attorneys’ fees and costs. But counsel’s hourly rate was reduced to one more commensurate with the Western District of Virginia and the type of the lawsuit.
Nelson and Danielle Barre sued DCN Holdings Inc. for violations of the FDCPA, relating to DCN’s repeated communications with the Barres attempting to collect a disputed debt despite notice from the Barres’ attorney. This court granted the Barres’ motion for default judgment on Sept. 23, 2021, and awarded damages in the amount of $2,000, plus costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees. The Barres now seek attorneys’ fees and costs in the amount of $ 3,965 and $500 respectively.
The Barres are represented by Ingmar Goldson, a member of the Maryland bar with more than eight years of experience, and D. Margeaux Thomas, a member of the Virginia bar with approximately 15 years of experience. Both attorneys practice civil litigation primarily in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Maya Srour, Thomas’s paralegal, also worked on the matter. The Barres submit hourly rates of $300 and $350 for Goldson and Thomas, respectively, and an hourly rate of $150 for Srour.
The Barres support the reasonableness of their fees by pointing to matrices, such as the Laffey matrix, that attempt to establish reasonable rates for the D.C. metro area; however, the court finds these matrices irrelevant to this matter. The hourly rate of attorneys based out of the D.C. Metropolitan area is unquestionably higher than that of attorneys based out of Roanoke, Virginia.
This court has found that an hourly rate of $350 is reasonable for an experienced attorney in “large” and “complex” civil litigation; however, this matter is neither large nor complex. For a “straightforward” case, particularly one that resulted in the entry of a default judgment, the court finds that a reasonable hourly rate for Goldson and Thomas is $250 and a reasonable rate for paralegal Srour is $100.
Reasonableness of hours
Barres submit 8.8 hours by Goldson, 3.1 hours by Thomas and 1.6 hours by Srour. The documentation provided shows that the hours were spent developing the case, drafting and revising the FDCPA complaint, filing the motion for entry of default judgment and communicating attorney-to-attorney and attorney-to-client.
The court will slightly lower the total number of hours submitted in this case. After default judgment was entered in the Barres’ favor, the use of more than one attorney was duplicative and/or excessive. Therefore, the court will deduct time from Thomas’s hour calculation. Otherwise, the court finds that the hours submitted are reasonable.
Degree of success
The outcome of this case was relatively successful for the Barres. The Barres sought $20,000 in damages. This court granted default judgment as the result of DCN’s failure to answer and awarded the Barres $2,000 in damages. Furthermore, the Barres and their counsel were saved time and expense because there was limited, if any, need for developing the case aside from drafting the complaint, given that DCN failed to answer, resulting in entry of default judgment in favor of the Barres. The court does not make any further adjustment to the lodestar amount.
Under §1692k of the FDCPA, a prevailing party in a civil liability action may recover an attorney’s out-of-pocket expenses if they are reasonable and would normally be charged to the client for the provision of legal services. These requested costs include the $400 filing fee and the $100 pro hac vice fee. It is well-settled that filing fees are recoverable, and the court will also award the pro hac vice fee as a filing fee.
Plaintiffs’ motion for attorneys’ fees and costs granted in part, denied in part.
Barre v. DCN Holdings Inc., Case No. 7:20-cv-00416, June 1, 2022. WDVA at Roanoke (Dillon). VLW 022-3-233. 7 pp.