• Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on January 12, 2016

 

We have talked a lot in other articles about how your attorneys’ fees can be awarded for successful prosecutions of actions under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the California Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act. Sometimes people ask what this means and how are they awarded by the court.

It is not every case that allows for the court to award attorneys’ fees, because typically the court only rules upon a motion for attorneys’ fees after the consumer (our client) wins on the merits. The majority of cases settle for a specific lump sum of money, from which the attorneys will normally take a percentage on a contingency fee basis as their fees. However, if your case goes to trial and you win a verdict in your favor, or if your case is won pre-trial on motion for summary judgment, then the law requires that the creditor or collector who violated your rights to pay your attorneys’ fees by order of the court (unless they decide to settle for a specific amount of fees).

In some cases, and more rarely, the creditor or debt collector against whom the lawsuit was brought might agree to a settlement whereby the consumer (our client) is awarded a specific amount of damages and then our attorneys’ fees and costs are to be decided by the court.

In the attached example that you can read here, the defendants Western Dental Services and their debt collector Herbert P. Sears Company, Inc. did exactly that. They agreed that our client would be awarded a specific, but confidential, sum of money with our attorneys’ fees and costs being decided by motion to the court.

The total amount awarded by the court was $65,277.28 for attorneys’ fees and costs of litigation. This was based on what is called the “lodestar” calculation, which requires the court to simply calculate a reasonable hourly rate by a reasonable number of hours expended by the attorneys in order to come up with the total amount to be awarded.

However, it is often not clear how the attorneys are awarded a certain hourly rate. The lodestar method typically requires the court to look at what is an average hourly rate for other attorneys in the same jurisdiction as the court where the case was filed with similar experience as the attorney whose motion is pending. It is common in the consumer rights area for the courts to rely on the U.S. Consumer Law Attorney Fee Survey Report that is prepared every couple of years in order to document the average salary for consumer attorneys in each region and territory within the United States, mostly based on experience level and years of practice. The 2013-2014 version of this survey was prepared by Ronald L. Burdge, Esq., and can be found on the National Consumer Law Center’s website at https://www.nclc.org/images/pdf/litigation/fee-survey-report-2013-2014.pdf.

The court ruling got to the total amount of $65,277.28 by adding the reasonable costs of litigation to the total hourly amounts awarded to Jared M. Hartman at $349.00 per hour and Babak Semnar at $425.00 per hour in connection with their prosecution of claims under the Federal and Rosenthal FDCPA and California credit reporting act.

If you or a loved one are concerned about whether your rights have been violated by a debt collector, creditor, bank, or credit reporting agency, please do not hesitate to call us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss whether your case might fall within one of the areas of law that allow us to pursue our attorneys’ fees in a similar manner.