Chatman v. Stellar Recovery, Inc.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER Signed by the Honorable Harry D. Leinenweber on 3/10/2017:Mailed notice(wp, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
Case No. 16 C 833
Judge Harry D. Leinenweber
STELLAR RECOVERY, INC.,
Before the Court is Plaintiff Tammie Chatman’s Motion for
Attorneys’ Fees and Costs [ECF No. 21].
For the reasons stated
herein, the Motion is granted in part.
Attorneys’ fees are
awarded to Plaintiff in the amount of $6,478.42 and costs in the
amount of $465.00.
agency, for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Collection Agency Act, 225 ILCS 425/9(a)(33).
As the assignee
of debt Plaintiff owed on a Comcast account, Stellar allegedly
issued a letter to Plaintiff requesting payment but claiming
that certain payment methods would require a convenience and
Plaintiff sued on the theory that Stellar had
no contractual or statutory right to this fee, and thus had used
false and deceptive representations in an attempt to collect the
After filing an Amended Answer to Plaintiff’s Complaint,
Stellar tendered an offer of judgment in the amount of $1,001.00
plus reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs to be determined by
Plaintiff accepted and now seeks attorneys’ fees in
the amount of $12,015.60 and costs in the amount of $465.00.
another attorney named, as coincidence would have it, Celetha
The Court first notes that both hourly rates fall well
above the 50th percentile for Midwest consumer law attorneys,
meaning that these fees are not necessarily consistent with what
People Who Care v. Rockford Bd. of Educ.,
(quoting Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 892, 895 n.11 (1984)).
attorneys, and awards in similar cases.
Hensley v. Eckerhart,
461 U.S. 424, 430 n.3 (1983).
With respect to Mr. Wood, the Court is not willing to find
Recovery Asscs., LLC, No. 15 C 11568, Dkt. 31 (N.D. Ill. Jun. 7,
2016), Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer reduced Mr. Wood’s hourly rate
through February 18, 2016.
Yet Plaintiff’s counsel submitted a
bill charging $352.00 for work he performed in this comparable
case during that same time frame.
Thus, counsel’s own evidence
does not support awarding fees based on a $352.00 hourly rate
for work Mr. Wood performed prior to February 18, 2016.
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Court awards attorneys’ fees for such work in the amount of
Wood’s work, which was all performed after the time frame at
requested rate of $352.00.
That amounts to $1,724.80 (4.9 hours
Similarly for Ms. Chatman, the evidence does not support a
finding that her asserted $315.00 fee is reasonable for all work
performed in this case.
In Holloway, Ms. Chatman billed work
she performed from October 15, 2015 through March 28, 2016 at an
hourly rate of $295.00 (she was admitted to the Illinois bar on
November 5, 2015).
Judge Pallmeyer found that rate reasonable.
It is a mystery how Plaintiff’s counsel could in good faith bill
comparable case during that same time.
By contrast, Ms. Chatman
charged an hourly rate of $315.00 in Ackles v. Contract Callers,
Inc., No. 16 C 2101 (N.D. Ill.), for work performed in April and
$4,632.60 in attorneys’ fees.
However, Ms. Chatman’s affidavit
indicates that Judge Darrah only approved her hourly rate of
$295.00 in that case.
(ECF No. 21 (“Pl.’s Mot.”), Ex. C ¶ 10.)
While this evidence supports the inference that Ms. Chatman’s
hourly rate for FDCPA work had indeed increased to $315.00 by
reasonable for work performed then.
Therefore, the Court finds no justification for awarding
attorneys’ fees based on Ms. Chatman’s claimed hourly rate of
$315.00 for work performed during and prior to May 2016.
such work, only a $295.00 hourly rate is reasonable, and so the
For the remainder of Ms. Chatman’s work, all performed
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after the time frames at issue in Holloway and Ackles, the Court
awards attorneys’ fees at the requested rate of $315.00.
is in part because Stellar does not contest the asserted fee and
in part because a $20 hourly rate hike approximately six months
after a young attorney is admitted to the bar strikes the Court
$11,568.60 ($2,419.80 + $1,724.80 + $3,864.50 + $3,559.50).
In response to an argument raised by Plaintiff’s counsel,
billing rates were approved in another FDCPA case, Serrano v.
Alliant Capital Mgmt., LLC et al., No. 16 C 8602, Dkt. 14 (N.D.
Ill. Oct. 27, 2016), does not change the outcome.
Judge John Z.
Lee in that case did not issue a statement explaining the fee
award, which was imposed after a default judgment, and in any
event all the legal work there occurred after September 1, 2016.
Therefore, Serrano does not conflict with this Court’s ruling
entitling Plaintiff’s counsel to their asserted fees for work
performed after the periods at issue in Holloway and Ackles.
The final issue remaining is whether this newly calculated
lodestar of $11,568.60 in fees should be offset.
argues that many time entries were excessive in light of the
pleadings Plaintiff’s counsel uses across all their FDCPA cases.
Second, Stellar contends that some of the work performed by Mr.
There is precedent in this Court for an offset based on
such billing practices.
See, e.g., Vaughn v. Account Recovery
Service, Inc., No. 14 C 8179, Dkt. 24 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 24, 2015).
In Vaughn, the plaintiff’s counsel (Community Law Group and, in
particular, Mr. Wood) “billed for calendaring hearings, drafting
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preparing exhibits.” Id. at 1.
This Court reduced the proposed
lodestar by 30 percent as a result.
It appears that Plaintiff’s
counsel has hewed to the same practices in this case.
in Vaughn, this Court reduced the newly calculated lodestar by
complex issues and proceeded quickly to settlement.”
Id. at 2.
The Court considers such an approach adequate to salve Stellar’s
amount by 20 percent to account for the (lack of) complexity of
This yields an award of attorneys’ fees equal to
unopposed, are set in the amount of $465.00.
Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge
United States District Court
Dated: March 10, 2017
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