Matt et al v. Barton et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs' Motion for Award of Attorneys' Fees and Court Costs 16 is hereby GRANTED, in part. Plaintiffs are awarded $1,500 in statutory and actual damages, $450 in court costs, and $4838.00 for a total of $6788.00. Signed by District Judge John A. Ross on 5/20/14. (ARL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
JULIE AND ANDREW MATT,
DENNIS J. BARTON, III, et al.,
Case No. 4:13CV2529 JAR
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs’ Motion for Attorneys= Fees and Court Costs
(ECF No. 16). This matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.
Defendant Barton filed an Offer of Judgment on March 6, 2014, which Plaintiffs accepted
on March 13, 2014. (ECF No. 17 at 3; ECF No. 16-3). In the Offer of Proof, Barton concedes
that Plaintiffs are entitled to $1,500.00 in damages, Plaintiffs’ reasonable attorneys’ fees related to
prosecuting Barton, and the costs of litigation. (ECF No. 16-3). In their motion for attorneys’
fees, Plaintiffs request the Court enter judgment in their favor consisting of (1) $6,667.00 in
attorneys’ fees; (2) $1,500 in damages; and (3) $450 in costs for a total award of $8,617.00. (ECF
No. 17 at 2). Plaintiffs’ counsel charged the rate of $295 per hour. Plaintiffs’ requested fee award
is the only amount in dispute.
Barton argues that the proposed attorneys’ fees are too high. First, Barton disputes 3.3 of
the 4.3 hours charged from December 2, 2013 through December 11, 2013 for communications
between Plaintiffs and counsel. (ECF No. 18 at 3). Barton states that this was too much time for
a conference on a non-complex case and consents to only 1 hour of time.
Second, Barton also disputes the hour of invoiced work on December 12, 2013 for internet
research. (ECF No. 18 at 3-4). Barton states that Plaintiffs’ counsel already charged for this
search in Hejlek v. Barton, 4:13cv2503.
Barton also challenges the 6.5 invoiced hours for time Plaintiffs’ counsel researched
potential FDCPA causes of action related to Barton’s false representation that he was the attorney
for St. Anthony’s Medical Center and his false and misleading collection letters, as well as the
“bona fide error” defense. (ECF No. 18 at 4-5). Again, Barton contends that Plaintiffs’ counsel
billed a similar charge in Hejlek for potential causes of action against Barton. Further, Barton
claims that it was error to research such defense prior to Barton raising it and asserts that Plaintiffs’
counsel should not have charged for any of that time.
Barton disputes 6 of the 7 hours that Plaintiffs’ counsel is requesting for drafting the
complaint. Barton asserts that Plaintiffs’ counsel filed 7 similar complaints against 7 different
defendants. Barton claims that the 7 hours is exaggerated and should be divided equally among
the 7 different defendants. (ECF No. 18 at 6).
Finally, Barton disputes all requested amounts for Plaintiffs’ counsel’s communications on
February 14, 23 and 25, 2014, with St. Anthony’s Medical Center’s counsel, Laura Frame. (ECF
No. 18 at 6-8). Barton contends that those hours are duplicative of the time requested in Hejlek
and because Plaintiffs’ counsel violated Missouri Rule of Professional Conduct 4-4.2 when he
spoke to Ms. Frame without Barton’s knowledge and consent.
In reply, Plaintiffs’ 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. 19).
Plaintiffs’ counsel further asserts that he did not double bill for any work and that the fees
requested are in-line with other attorneys’ fees awards for similar work. Plaintiffs’ counsel states
that he divided his “time between each of the seven cases on the basis of what time was actually
spent with respect to each case and nothing more.” (ECF No. 19 at 1).
As a starting point, the Court does not question Mr. Voytas’ ethics, particularly where the
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 Plaintiffs’ counsel
charged for too much time for meeting with his client, researching the FDCPA causes of action,
and preparing the complaint. As a starting point, Plaintiffs have requested fees for 22.6 hours of
work. Barton consents to 3.9 hours of work. (ECF No. 18 at 8). As a result, 18.7 hours of work
After a thorough review of the record, the Court will reduce the fees by
approximately one-third of the contested amount (or 6.2 hours). The Court believes that a 6.2
hour reduction is warranted given the atypical amount of time Mr. Voytas spent preparing for and
having the initial client meetings (4.3 hours), performing internet searches on Barton (1.0 hours),
researching FDCPA causes of action against Barton and his possible defenses (6.5 hours), and
drafting the complaint (6.1 hours). After a 6.2 hour reduction, the Court awards Plaintiffs their
fees for 16.4 hours of work, for a total of $4838.00
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ Motion for Award of Attorneys= Fees and
Court Costs  is hereby GRANTED, in part. Plaintiffs are awarded $1,500 in statutory and
actual damages, $450 in court costs, and $4838.00 for a total of $6788.00.
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?