O'Connor v. AR Resources Inc
ORDER granting 41 Motion for final approval of class action settlement, attorney's fees and class representative fees. See attached memorandum decision. The Clerk is directed to close the case. Signed by Judge Vanessa L. Bryant on 1/4/2012. (Fernandez, Melissa)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF
OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY
AR Resources, Inc.
: CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:08cv1703 (VLB)
: JANUARY 4, 2012
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION APPROVING CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT,
ATTORNEY’S FEES AND CLASS REPRESENTATIVE FEES
Before the Court is Plaintiff’s request for final approval of class action
settlement, attorney’s fees, and class representative fees. This matter was
initiated by a complaint filed on November 11, 2008 by the named Plaintiff,
Deborah O’Connor. Plaintiffs allege that AR Resources, Inc. (“AR Resources”)
engaged in unauthorized collection activity by sending collection letters to
Connecticut residents absent license in Connecticut to operate as a consumer
collection agency in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 36a-801. By doing so,
Plaintiffs allege that AR Resources also violated the Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act ("FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq., in that its unlicensed activity
constituted a deceptive means of collecting or attempting to collect a debt In
violation of FDCPA §1692e(10), and an unfair means of collecting or attempting to
collect a debt In violation of FDCPA §1692f. For the following reasons, the Court
approves the proposed settlement, attorney’s fees, and class representative fees.
Background and Terms of Proposed Settlement
This class action has been brought on behalf of all Connecticut residents
from whom Defendant attempted to collect money while not being licensed with
the Connecticut Department of Banking as a Consumer Collection Agency. On
March 30, 2010, the Court certified the proposed class finding that the
requirements for class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
23(a) and (b) had been met. See [Dkt. #27]. The Court then denied the parties’
motion to preliminary approve the proposed settlement agreement and required
the parties to submit additional information to enable the Court to determine if the
proposed settlement was fair, reasonable and adequate. See [Dkt. #27]. On April
5, 2011, the Court entered an order preliminarily approving the proposed
settlement agreement, form and manner of notice. See [Dkt. # 34]. The Court
held a fairness hearing on August 25, 2011. As of that date, no class member
objected to the settlement or requested exclusion. Defendant did not object to
the requests for attorney or class representative fees.
The class consists of approximately 445 consumers in Connecticut from
whom Defendant attempted to collect debts in the year before the filing of the
class action complaint. [Doc. # 41, Aff. Of Dora Fernandez, ¶¶4-5]. Of the 445,
there were 54 members that were unreachable. Id. ¶13. None of the remaining
members objected or opted out. Id. ¶15. There were 26 timely claim forms
submitted and zero untimely forms submitted. Id. ¶16-17.
Defendant has agreed to establish a settlement fund of $5,000 for the class
members which could be claimed by submitting a claim form. The 26 class
members that submitted the claim form are therefore entitled to a payment of
$192.30 each. Additionally, Defendant has agreed that the named plaintiff,
Deborah O’Connor, is to receive $2,000 for a class representative fee. Defendant
has also agreed to pay Plaintiff’s counsel’s attorney fees in the amount of
$32,000, and has additionally refunded the $1,751.25 that it collected as collection
fees to the class members.
Defendant has also agreed to make a cy pres payment of $500 to the
National Consumer Law Center and $500 to the National Association of
Consumer Advocates. The National Consumer Law Center is a 501 (c) (3)
nonprofit advocacy organization which specializes in consumer issues on behalf
of low-income people. The National Consumer Law Center primarily researches
consumer law in America and writes books for consumer lawyers and other legal
advocates for those of low income. It was founded over 40 years ago and offers
training to thousands of legal-service, government, and private attorneys, as well
as community groups and organizations representing low-income and elderly
The National Association of Consumer Advocates was founded in 1992 and
is a non-profit association of attorneys and consumer advocates committed to
representing customers’ interests. Its members are private and public sector
attorneys, legal services attorneys, law professors and law students whose
primary focus is the protection and representation of consumers. National
Association of Consumer Advocates also has a charitable and educational fund
incorporated under §501 (c) (3).
Under the FDCPA, there is a statutory limit on the amount a successful
class may recover. A successful class may recover damages up to the lesser of
$500,000 or 1% of a Defendant’s net worth. 15 U.S.C. § 1692K. At the time of the
settlement agreement, Defendant AR Resources, Inc. had a negative net worth.
Approval of the Settlement Agreement
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e) provides that the “claims, issues, or
defenses of a certified class may be settled, voluntarily dismissed, or
compromised only with the court’s approval.” The Rule further provides that:
(1) The court must direct notice in a reasonable manner to all class members
who would be bound by the proposal.
(2) If the proposal would bind class members, the court may approve it only
after a hearing and on finding that it is fair, reasonable, and adequate.
Fed R. Civ. P. 23(e)(1)-(2). Thus, to be properly approved, the settlement must
provide reasonable notice to class members of the settlement proposal and the
settlement must be procedurally and substantively fair, reasonable, and
“To determine procedural fairness, courts examine the negotiating process
leading to the settlement.” Matheson v. T-Bone Restaurant, LLC, No.09Civ.4214,
2011 WL 6268216, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 13, 2011) (citing Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v.
Visa U.S.A., Inc., 396 F.3d 96, 113 (2d. Cir. 2005)).
“To determine substantive fairness, courts determine whether the
settlement's terms are fair, adequate, and reasonable according to the factors set
forth in City of Detroit v. Grinnell Corp., 495 F.2d 448 (2d Cir. 1974).” Id. The
Ginnell factors are:
(1) the complexity, expense and likely duration of the litigation; (2)
the reaction of the class to the settlement; (3) the stage of the
proceedings and the amount of discovery completed; (4) the risks of
establishing liability; (5) the risks of establishing damages; (6) the
risks of maintaining the class action through the trial; (7) the ability
of the defendants to withstand a greater judgment; (8) the range of
reasonableness of the settlement fund in light of the best possible
recovery; [and] (9) the range of reasonableness of the settlement
fund to a possible recovery in light of all the attendant risks of
City of Detroit v. Grinnell Corp., 495 F.2d 448, 463 (2d Cir. 1974) (internal citations
omitted), abrogated on other grounds by Goldberger v. Integrated Res., 209 F.3d
43 (2d Cir. 2000).
The Second Circuit has further instructed that:
A court may approve a class action settlement if it is fair, adequate,
and reasonable, and not a product of collusion. A court determines
a settlement's fairness by looking at both the settlement's terms and
the negotiating process leading to settlement. A presumption of
fairness, adequacy, and reasonableness may attach to a class
settlement reached in arm's-length negotiations between
experienced, capable counsel after meaningful discovery. We are
mindful of the strong judicial policy in favor of settlements,
particularly in the class action context. The compromise of complex
litigation is encouraged by the courts and favored by public policy.
Wal-Mart, 396 F.3d at 116-17 (internal citations and quotations omitted).
Adequacy of Notice
Federal Rule 23(c)(2)(B) defines notice requirements for Rule 23(b)(3)
classes, providing that:
the court must direct to class members the best notice that is
practicable under the circumstances, including individual notice to
all members who can be identified through reasonable effort. The
notice must clearly and concisely state in plain, easily understood
the nature of the action;
the definition of the class certified;
the class claims, issues, or defenses;
that a class member may enter an appearance through an attorney if
the member so
that the court will exclude from the class any member who requests
(vi) the binding effect of a class judgment on members under Rule
The Second Circuit has further clarified that “[t]he standard for the
adequacy of a settlement notice in a class action under either the Due Process
Clause or the Federal Rules is measured by reasonableness.” Wal-Mart, 396 F.3d
at 113. Further, there are “no rigid rules to determine whether a settlement notice
to the class satisfies constitutional or Rule 23(e) requirements; the settlement
notice must fairly apprise the prospective members of the class of the terms of
the proposed settlement and of the options that are open to them in connection
with the proceedings. Notice is adequate if it may be understood by the average
class member.” (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Id. at 114.
Here the notice to the class was reasonable and sufficient to satisfy Rule
23’s requirements. On or about May 25, 2011, first class notices which were
approved by the Court in its prior order preliminarily approving the proposed
settlement were mailed to all 445 class members. [Doc. # 41, Aff. Of Dora
Fernandez, ¶6]. Of the 445 mailed, 146 were returned undeliverable after the
initial mailing. Id. ¶8. However, after further attempts to contact the class
members through forwarding addresses and the use of Accurint, an on-line
person tracking service, all but 54 class members were reached. Id. ¶¶8-12.
The Settlement was Fair, Reasonable, and Adequate
a. Procedural Fairness
Here, the settlement was reached after the Plaintiffs conducted a thorough
investigation and evaluation of the claims and was the product of an arm’s length
negotiation between the parties. The parties engaged in significant discovery
relating to class size, Defendant’s net worth and Defendant’s process and
procedures for collecting debt within Connecticut which enabled them to evaluate
the strengths and weaknesses of their claims. Further, Plaintiff’s counsel’s
practice primarily focuses on FDCPA claims and therefore Plaintiff’s counsel has
acquired expertise in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of claims brought
under the FDCPA. In addition, the Plaintiff’s counsel agreed to reduce the
attorney fees sought as a result of the settlement process and in light of
Defendant’s poor financial condition as confirmed by discovery between the
parties. These facts demonstrate that the settlement achieved met the
requirements of procedural fairness.
b. Substantive Fairness
i. Complexity, expense and likely duration
Although the present matter is not particularly legally or factually complex,
there would still be a significant amount of work and effort to prepare the case for
trial. The parties have indicated that it would likely take an additional year before
the parties would be ready to try the case. Moreover, the expense of litigating
this matter through trial would likely outweigh any potential recovery considering
the FDPA’s statutory damages cap limiting recovery to 1% of Defendant’s net
worth which in this case would be a negative amount. At this juncture, the
attorney’s fees are estimated to be more than $32,000, which is already well
above the proposed settlement, and likely above any recovery that could be
obtained at trial. Consequently, this factor weighs in favor of finding the
settlement adequate and reasonable.
ii. Reaction of the class
It is well settled that the reaction of the class to the settlement is perhaps
the most significant factor to be weighed in considering its adequacy. In re
American Bank Note Holographics, Inc., 127 F.Supp.2d 418, 425 (S.D.N.Y.2001).
The parties have indicated that the reaction of the class has been favorable.
There have been no objections or exclusions.
“[T]he absence of objectants may
itself be taken as evidencing the fairness of a settlement.” Ross v. A.H. Robins,
700 F. Supp. 682, 684 (S.D.N.Y. 1988) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). Accordingly, this factor also weighs in favor of finding the settlement
reasonable and adequate.
iii. Stage of Proceedings and Amount of Discovery Completed
When weighing this factor, the Court “need not find that the parties have
engaged in extensive discovery … Instead, it is enough for the parties to have
engaged in sufficient investigation of the facts to enable the Court to intelligently
make an appraisal of the Settlement.” In re Austrian & German Bank Holocaust
Litig., 80 F. Supp. 2d 164, 176 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (internal quotations and citations
omitted), aff'd sub nom. D'Amato v. Deutsche Bank, 236 F.3d 78 (2d Cir. 2001).
Here, the parties engaged in significant formal as well as informal discovery
related to class size, certification, Defendant’s process for collecting debts in
Connecticut, and Defendant’s net worth including deposing Defendant’s
designated representative. Such discovery has enabled the Court to intelligently
make an appraisal of the proposed settlement. Considering that the individual
recovery for each class member is less than the statutory maximum each
member could have obtained if they pursued their claim individually, the fact that
Defendant’s net worth is negative would have prohibited Plaintiffs’ from
recovering statutory damages as a class altogether if the action had proceeded to
trial in light of the FDCPA’s cap on class action damages. The confirmation of
Defendant’s negative net worth through discovery has provided the Court with
facts necessary to appraise and find the proposed settlement fair and reasonable.
iv. Risks of establishing liability and damages
Here, the parties indicate that Defendant has raised a potentially
meritorious defense of bona fide error to its FDCPA liability. See 15 U.S.C.
1692k(c). The bona fide error defense absolves a defendant debt collector from
liability if the debt collector can show by a preponderance of evidence that any
violation was not intentional and resulted from a bona fide error notwithstanding
the maintenance of procedures reasonably adapted to avoid any such error.
Here the Defendant collects medical debts and does not collect accounts for any
creditors located in Connecticut. Discovery has revealed that the letters that
were sent to class members in Connecticut were sent by a third party vendor on
Defendant’s behalf and that Defendant was unaware that letters had been mailed
to Connecticut residents. Further, the fact-intensive nature of establishing a
bona fide error defense which would require a showing that the FDCPA violation
was not intentional presents risks and uncertainty to either side which the
proposed settlement will eliminate.
In addition statutory damages could not be established in light of
Defendant’s negative net worth if the matter proceeded to trial thus limiting any
recovery to actual damages which would be more difficult and onerous to prove.
Accordingly, these factors weigh in favor of approving the proposed settlement.
As other courts have concluded “given the small amount of damages available in
cases brought pursuant the FDCPA, the benefits of immediate recovery outweigh
the risks associated with ongoing litigation.” Garland v. Cohen & Krassner,
No.08-cv-4626, 2011 WL 6010211, at *7 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 29, 2011).
v. Risks of maintaining the class action through trial
The parties have not presented any evidence that there is any real or
substantial risk that the class will be decertified before the trial. In addition as
one court in the Southern District of New York concluded “a contested class
certification motion would likely require extensive discovery and briefing. If the
Court were to grant class certification, Defendants might seek to file an appeal
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f) the resolution of which would require
an additional round of briefing. Settlement eliminates the risk, expense, and
delay inherent in the litigation process.” Matheson, 2011 WL 6268216, at *5.
Accordingly this factor weighs in favor of final approval.
vi. Ability of Defendant to withstand a greater judgment
Considering that Defendant has a negative net worth, Defendant would not
be able to withstand a greater judgment. Even if the law allowed for a greater
judgment, which it does not, the parties have indicated that the settlement
amount is the greatest that the Defendant could withstand. Further if all of the
class members had individually pursued their FDCPA claims against the
Defendant, each class member would have likely been unable to recovery the
statutory maximum considering the Defendant’s poor financial condition. This
factor therefore weighs heavily in favor of final approval.
vii. Range of reasonableness of the settlement in light of the best
possible recovery in light of all the attendant risks of litigation
The eighth and ninth factors call upon the Court to weigh the range of
reasonableness of the settlement fund in light of the best possible recovery and
attendant risks of litigation. In doing so, the Court is “called upon to consider
and weigh the nature of the claim, the possible defenses, the situation of the
parties, and the exercise of business judgment in determining whether the
proposed settlement is reasonable. Grinnell, 495 F.2d at 462. However, “[i]t is
not necessary in order to determine whether an agreement of settlement and
compromise shall be approved that the court try the case which is before it for
settlement. Such procedure would emasculate the very purpose for which
settlements are made.” Id. (ellipsis omitted). “The determination of whether a
settlement amount is reasonable does not involve the use of a ‘mathematical
equation yielding a particularized sum … Instead, there is a range of
reasonableness with respect to a settlement—a range which recognizes the
uncertainties of law and fact in any particular case and the concomitant risks and
costs necessarily inherent in taking any litigation to completion.” Matheson,
2011 WL 6268216, at *6 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Here
considering Defendant’s negative net worth, the statutory cap on class action
damages, and Defendant’s potentially meritorious bona fide error defense, the
Plaintiffs are recovering more than they could recover if the class action
proceeded to trial with respect to statutory damages. Further, the Defendant has
disgorged the profit of $1,751.25 that it made when it collected the class
members’ debt. Considering Defendant’s poor financial condition and its inability
to withstand a greater recovery, the proposed settlement amount is reasonable
and weighs in favor of final approval. For the foregoing reasons, all of the
Grinnell factors support a finding that the settlement is fair, reasonable and
Approval of Attorney and Class Representative Fees
The Court is mindful that the FDCPA mandates the payment of reasonable
attorney’s fees by the defendant in order to provide attorneys with an incentive to
pursue smaller claims. See 15 U.S.C. §1692k(a)(3); Emanuel v. Am. Credit Exch.,
870 F.2d 805, 809 (2d Cir. 1989).
The Second Circuit has traditionally recognized two distinct methods to
determine what is a reasonable attorney’s fee. “The first is the lodestar, under
which the district court scrutinizes the fee petition to ascertain the number of
hours reasonably billed to the class and then multiplies that figure by an
appropriate hourly rate. Once that initial computation has been made, the district
court may, in its discretion, increase the lodestar by applying a multiplier based
on other less objective factors, such as the risk of the litigation and the
performance of the attorneys.” Goldberger v. Integrated Res., Inc., 209 F.3d 43,
47 (2d Cir. 2000) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Under the second
method, the court sets some percentage of the recovery as a fee. Id. The Second
Circuit subsequently clarified the proper analysis with respect to attorneys fee in
Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Ass'n v. County of Albany & Albany
County Bd. of Elections, 522 F.3d 182 (2d Cir. 2008) finding that the term
“lodestar” was outdated and instead used the term “presumptively reasonable
fee.” Id. at 189-90.
In wage and hour class action lawsuits, which are similar to FDCPA
suits in that small claims can often only be prosecuted through aggregate
litigation, public policy favors a common fund attorney’s fee award. See
Johnson v. Brennan, No.10Civ.4712(CM), 2011 WL 4357376, at *14 (S.D.N.Y.
Sept. 16, 2011) (noting that “the trend in this Circuit is to use the
percentage of the fund method in common fund cases”); Willix v.
Healthfirst, Inc., No.07Civ.1143, 2011 WL 754862, at *6 (E.D.N.Y.). However
considering that the settlement amount is minimal as a consequence of
Defendant’s negative net worth, the “presumptively reasonable fee”
method as articulated in Arbor Hill is more appropriate under these
The Second Circuit has noted that “[w]hile the Arbor Hill panel indicated its
preference for abandonment of the term ‘lodestar’ altogether, the approach
adopted in that case is nonetheless a derivative of the lodestar method.” In Arbor
Hill, the Second Circuit instructed that:
[T]he better course – and the one most consistent with attorney's
fees jurisprudence – is for the district court, in exercising its
considerable discretion, to bear in mind all of the case-specific
variables that we and other courts have identified as relevant to the
reasonableness of attorney's fees in setting a reasonable hourly rate.
The reasonable hourly rate is the rate a paying client would be
willing to pay. In determining what rate a paying client would be
willing to pay, the district court should consider, among others, the
Johnson factors; it should also bear in mind that a reasonable,
paying client wishes to spend the minimum necessary to litigate the
case effectively. The district court should also consider that such an
individual might be able to negotiate with his or her attorneys, using
their desire to obtain the reputational benefits that might accrue from
being associated with the case. The district court should then use
that reasonable hourly rate to calculate what can properly be termed
the “presumptively reasonable fee.”
Arbor Hill, 522 F.3d at 190.
Consequently, courts have described the “presumptively reasonable
fee” analysis as a “process” that is “really a four-step one, as the court
must: ‘(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.’” Vereen v. Siegler, No.3:07CV1898, 2011 WL
2457534, at *1 (D. Conn. June 16, 2011) (quoting Adorno v. Port Authority of
New York and New Jersey, 685 F.Supp.2d 507, 510 (S.D.N.Y. 2010)).
contemporaneously accounts for hours worked, which indicates a time
expenditure of a total of 162.45 hours at rates between $90 and $325 per
hour, for a total fee of $35,197. [Dkt. #41, Affidavit of Daniel S. Blinn at 3-
Additionally, class counsel billed $3,699.68 in litigation related
expenses, for a total of $38,896.68. Id. As noted above, class counsel
discretionarily adjusted the “lodestar” downward and is only seeking
$32,000 in fees in light of Defendant’s poor financial condition.
Reasonable Hourly Rate
In Arbor Hill, Second Circuit indicated the relevant factors in
determining the reasonable hourly rate were articulated in Johnson v.
Georgia Highway Exp., Inc., 488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir. 1974):
(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the
questions; (3) the level of skill required to perform the legal service
properly; (4) the preclusion of employment by the attorney due to
acceptance of the case; (5) the attorney's customary hourly rate; (6)
whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) the time limitations imposed by
the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved in the case and the
results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorneys;
(10) the “undesirability” of the case; (11) the nature and length of the
professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar cases.
Johnson, 488 F.2d 717-19.
Reasonable hourly rates “are in line with those prevailing in the
community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill,
experience and reputation.” Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 (1984).
“[C]urrent rates, rather than historical rates, should be applied in order to
compensate for the delay in payment.” LeBlanc-Sternberg v. Fletcher, 143
F.3d 748, 764 (2d Cir. 1998). The determination of a prevailing rate requires
a ‘case-specific inquiry into the prevailing market rates for counsel of
similar experience and skill to the fee applicant's counsel.’” M.K. ex rel. K.
v. Sergi, 578 F.Supp.2d 425, 427 (D. Conn. 2008) (quoting Farbotko v.
Clinton County of New York, 433 F.3d 204, 209 (2d Cir. 2005)).
Attorney Blinn has requested a fee of $325 per hour. In past FDCPA
cases in this district over the last four years, Attorney Blinn has routinely
been awarded fees between $300-362 per hour. See, e.g., Hoyte v. Recheck
Funnding LLC, No.3:11-cv-0927, 2011 WL 6004582, at *2 (D. Conn. Dec. 1,
2011) (finding that average fee of $362 per hour to be reasonable and that
“based on the Court's familiarity with fee awards in this District and the
rates charged in this District by attorneys with similar skill and experience,
the Court finds the requested rates reasonable.”); Sterling v. Farran and
Ezedine, LLC, No.3:10-cv-1119, 2011 WL 219697, at *6 (D. Conn. Jan. 20,
2011) (on default judgment awarding Attorney Blinn hourly rate of $325);
Rivera v. Corporate Receivables, Inc., 540 F.Supp.2d 329, 339-40 (D. Conn.
2008) (finding that $325 per hour fee reasonable but adjusting the lodestar
figure downward for unnecessary work); Dinoto v. Rockland Financial Mtg.
Co., LLC, No.3:06-cv-1132, 2007 WL 2460674, at *6 (D. Conn. Aug. 2, 2007)
(concluding that “[b]ased on this Court's experience with and knowledge of
billing rates of attorneys in this district performing similar work to that of
Mr. Blinn, the Court finds that $300/hour is the prevailing billing rate”).
Attorney Blinn’s requested rate of $325 per hour is in line with prevailing
rates, commensurate with the level of skill required to perform properly,
and his customary hourly rate.
In addition, Attorney Blinn requested rates of $90 to $180 for his staff
who performed clerical and paralegal work. These rates are also in line
with prevailing rates and reasonable. See Bridgeport and Port Jefferson
Steamboat Co. v. Bridgeport Authority, No.3:03-cv-599, 2011 WL 721582, at
*5 (D. Conn. Feb. 22, 2011) (assuming that fees of $125 per hour for
paralegals and $95 per hour for a legal librarian to be reasonable); M.K.ex
rel. K., 578 F.Supp. 2d 425 at 428 (finding that $100 per hour for “paralegal
work is a reasonable prevailing rate in this district”).
Reasonableness of time spent
“The task of determining a fair fee requires a conscientious and
detailed inquiry into the validity of the representations that a certain
number of hours were usefully and reasonably expended.” Lunday v. City
of Albany, 42 F.3d 131, 134 (2d Cir. 1994).
Here, Attorney Blinn has
submitted sufficiently specific and detailed time records indicating the
nature of the work performed which this Court has scrutinized. It does not
appear that such records include any excessive, redundant or otherwise
unnecessary hours. Overall, Attorney Blinn and his staff expended 162.45
hours in preparing the case and facilitating the settlement process which
included significant discovery into Defendant’s net worth, collection
practices in Connecticut, and class certification. The Court therefore finds
that the time spent by Attorney Blinn and his staff to be reasonable.
Further Attorney Blinn has indicated that his total fees were approximately
$39,000 which is in excess of the amount ($32,00) he is seeking.
parties agreed to a reduction in the “lodestar” amount in light of the
Defendant’s poor financial condition and as a part of the settlement
Since the Court has found that (i) the requested hourly rates by
Attorney Blinn and his staff to be reasonable; (ii) the time spent by
Attorney Blinn and his staff to be reasonable; and (iii) the Parties’
discretionary reduction in the “lodestar” amount to $32,000 to be
appropriate, the presumptively reasonable fee is appropriately set at
See [Dkt. 41, Attach 3, Blinn Fee Affidavit]. Further, the Court
sees no reason why the presumptively reasonable fee should be further
The Court also notes that two similar fee awards have recently been
approved in this District in FDCPA cases. See Silver v. Law Offices Howard
Lee Schiff, P.C., no.3:09cv912(PCD), 2010 WL 5140851, at *3 (D. Conn. Dec.
16, 2010) (approving hourly rate of $350.00 for each hour worked totaling
$25,777.50 in fees); Ellis v. Solomon & Solomon, P.C., No.3:05CV1623
(JBA), 2009 WL 3418231, at *4 (D. Conn. Oct. 20, 2009) (approving an hourly
rate of $350.00 for each hour worked and a total award of $34,720.00).
Accordingly, the Court finds that attorney fees of $32,000 to be reasonable
The Settlement Agreement also includes an award of $2,000 to the
class representative in recognition of her efforts on behalf of the class.
“Service awards are common in class action cases and are important to
compensate plaintiffs for the time and effort expended in assisting the
prosecution of the litigation, the risks incurred by becoming and
continuing as a litigant, and any other burdens sustained by the plaintiff.”
Castagna v. Madison Square Garden, L.P., No.09-cv-10211(LTS)(HP), 2011
WL 2208614, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. June 7, 2011). This award is consistent with the
range of awards made in similar cases. See Garland, 2011 WL 6010211, at
*13 (approving class representative award of $3,000 in FDCPA class
action); Gross v. Wash. Mut. Bank, F.A., No.02-cv-4135, 2006 WL 318814, at
*6 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 8, 2006) (approving $5,000 award for the named plaintiff in
settlement of FDCPA action). Therefore, the Court approves the $2,000
class representative fee for the named plaintiff.
The Court hereby finally approves the settlement as set forth in the
Settlement Agreement as well as the requested attorney’s and class
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s motion for final
approval is GRANTED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant
United States District Judge
Dated at Hartford, Connecticut: January 4, 2012
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