We are often asked by other lawyers to comment on recent consumer cases and the recent case from Georgia, St. Claire v. Trauner (2008 WL 151542), caught our attention so we thought we would mention it here.
On January 11, 2008, Judge Evans from the Northern District of Georgia issued an opinion in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case that only involved a dispute over the attorney’s fee to be awarded the consumer lawyer Lisa Wright.
The defendant, Trauner, Cohen, & Thomas, LLP, agreed to settle the case for $1,000 plus attorney’s fees. This was because the defendant had received a validation request but failed to respond appropriately and instead continued its collection activities.
Lisa Wright asked for $300 per hour and the defendant argued this was too high because Lisa Wright sues lots of debt collectors. The court rightly rejected this argument as the fact that a lawyer sues collection agencies often is no reason to reduce the award (perhaps it should increase the award).
The court did reduce the award, however, to $250 per hour because this was a very simple case. Next the defendant said the hours expended by the plaintiff’s lawyer were excessive – the court rejected this by noting the hours were under nine. Therefore, the court awarded attorney’s fees in this very simple case that settled shortly after being filed. The fees and costs totaled $2587.
The moral of this case is that defendants who violate the FDCPA by abusing consumers will have to pay reasonable attorney’s fees. Defendants love to say their wrongdoing was a “technical” violation and that the defense attorneys don’t charge $250 or $300 or $350 per hour but this case reminds us that even for “simple” cases a lawyer who has been practicing for less than seven years is entitled to $250 per hour.
We know Lisa Wright from various consumer conferences and congratulate her on this excellent opinion that, hopefully, will remind debt collectors that there is a price to be paid for abusing consumers.
If you have been the victim of an abusive debt collector or abusive debt collector, please feel free to contact us as we sue abusive debt collectors.
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