Heljek v. Barton et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs Motion for Award of Attorneys' Fees and Court Costs 24 is hereby GRANTED, in part. Plaintiff is awarded $2,000 in statutory and actual damages, Plaintiff is awarded $5,575.5 0 in attorneys fees and $450.00 in court costs for a total of $8,025.50. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiffs Supplement re: Motion for Award of Damages and Attorneys Fees and Expenses 38 is GRANTED and Defendant Dennis J. Barton IIIs Motion to Strike Plaintiffs Supplement re: Motion for Award of Damages and Attorneys Fees and Expenses 39 is DENIED. Signed by District Judge John A. Ross on 5/20/14. (ARL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
DENNIS J. BARTON, III, et al.,
Case No. 4:13CV2503 JAR
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s Motion for Attorneys= Fees and Court Costs
(ECF No. 24). This matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.
Defendant Barton filed an Offer of Judgment on February 27, 2014, which Plaintiff
accepted on March 7, 2014. (ECF No. 25 at 3; ECF No. 24-3). In the Offer of Proof, Barton
concedes that Plaintiff is entitled to $2,000.00 in damages, Plaintiff’s reasonable attorneys’ fees
related to prosecuting Barton, and the costs of litigation. (Id.). In his motion for attorneys’ fees,
Plaintiff requests the Court enter judgment in his favor consisting of (1) $7,463.50 in attorneys’
fees; (2) $2,000 in damages; and (3) $450 in costs for a total award of $9,913.50. (ECF No. 24 at
2). Plaintiff’s counsel charged the rate of $295 per hour. Plaintiff’s requested fee award is the
only amount in dispute.
Barton argues that the proposed attorneys’ fees are too high. First, Barton disputes 2.5
hours of the 3.5 hours charged on December 11, 2013 for an initial meeting with his client. (ECF
No. 26 at 3). Barton states that this must have included travel time and it was too much time for a
conference on a non-complex case. Barton consents to only 1 hour of time.
Second, Barton also disputes the two hours of invoiced work for December 12, 2013 for
internet research. (ECF No. 26 at 3-4). Barton states that this is an unreasonable amount of time
and plaintiff’s counsel is billing for work performed in six other similar cases against Barton.
Barton consents to .3 hours.
Barton also challenges the 7.5 invoiced hours for time Plaintiff’s counsel researched
potential FDCPA causes of action against Barton. (ECF No. 26 at 4). Barton claims that the
amount of time is unreasonable because none of the claims are unusual and Mr. Voytas files a lot
of FDCPA claims. In any event, Barton asserts that Mr. Voytas’ requested time should be split
among all of the cases against Barton, and he consents to only .3 hours.
Barton disputes 5.4 of the 6.4 hours that Plaintiff’s counsel requests for drafting the
complaint. Barton asserts that Plaintiff’s counsel filed 7 similar complaints against 7 different
defendants. Barton claims that the 6.4 hours is exaggerated and should be divided equally among
the 7 different defendants. (ECF No. 28 at 4-5). Barton consents to 1 hour of time for drafting
the complaint. (ECF No. 28 at 4).
Barton disputes the 1.5 hour claim for time Mr. Voytas spent speaking to an employee of
Senex, a former co-defendant in this case. (ECF No. 26 at 5). Barton claims that it is unlikely
that Mr. Voytas spent 1.5 hours talking to the Senex employee solely about Barton. Further,
because Senex was involved in this case and Lois Mueller v. Barton, 4:13cv2523, Barton asserts
that Mr. Voytas can claim at most .8 hours (1.5 hours divided by two and rounded up to the nearest
Finally, Barton disputes the requested amount (1.9 hours) for Plaintiff’s counsel’s
communications on February 14, 23 and 25, 2014, with St. Anthony’s Medical Center’s counsel,
Laura Frame. (ECF No. 26 at 5-6). Barton contends that Plaintiff’s counsel violated Missouri
Rule of Professional Conduct 4-4.2 when he spoke to Ms. Frame without Barton’s knowledge and
In reply, Plaintiff’s counsel states that he did not commit any professional misconduct
because Ms. Frame contacted him in response to a subpoena, and he only spoke to her after he was
assured that St. Anthony’s Medical Center was not represented by Barton. (ECF No. 27).
Plaintiff’s counsel further asserts that it did not double bill for any work and that the fees requested
are in-line with other attorneys’ fees awards for similar work.
As a starting point, the Court does not question Mr. Voytas’ ethics, particularly where
evidence presented demonstrates that Ms. Frame contacted Mr. Voytas first. The Court finds no
ethical violation on the part of Mr. Voytas and, further, that Barton’s allegation is unwarranted and
The Court nevertheless believes that amount of requested attorneys’ fees is more than
anticipated, given the early stage of the litigation. The Court finds that Plaintiff’s counsel
charged for too much time for meeting with his client, researching the FDCPA causes of action,
preparing the complaint, and talking to the employee at Senex. As a starting point, Plaintiff has
requested 25.3 hours of attorneys’ fees. Barton consents to 5.9 hours of work. (ECF No. 26 at
7). As a result, 19.4 hours of work are contested. After a thorough review of the record, the
Court will reduce the fees by approximately one-third of the contested amount (or 6.4 hours). The
Court believes that a 6.4 hour reduction is warranted given the atypical amount of time Mr. Voytas
spent preparing for and having the initial client meeting (4.7 hours), performing internet searches
on Barton (2.0 hours), researching FDCPA causes of action against Barton and his possible
defenses (7.5 hours), drafting the complaint (6.4 hours), and talking to the employee at Senex (1.5
hours). After a 6.4 hour reduction, Plaintiff is awarded fees for 18.9 hours of work in the amount
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion for Award of Attorneys= Fees and
Court Costs  is hereby GRANTED, in part. Plaintiff is awarded $2,000 in statutory and
actual damages, Plaintiff is awarded $5,575.50 in attorneys’ fees and $450.00 in court costs for a
total of $8,025.50.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Supplement re: Motion for Award of
Damages and Attorneys’ Fees and Expenses  is GRANTED and Defendant Dennis J. Barton
III’s Motion to Strike Plaintiff’s Supplement re: Motion for Award of Damages and Attorney’s
Fees and Expenses  is DENIED.
Dated this 20th day of May, 2014.
JOHN A. ROSS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?