United States District Court, D. Kansas
RICHARD W. HAYES, Plaintiff,
I.C. SYSTEM, INC., and BANFIELD PET HOSPITAL, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. THOMAS MARTEN, Chief District Judge.
Plaintiff Richard W. Hayes sought monetary damages against defendants I.C. System, Inc. and Banfield Pet Hospital for alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., and the Kansas Consumer Protection Act ("KCPA"), K.S.A. § 50-623 et seq. On October 30, 2014, the parties reached a settlement whereby plaintiff obtained a judgment in the amount of $1, 001.00. This matter is before the court on plaintiff's Motion for an Award of Costs and Attorney Fees (Dkt. 12).
I. Factual and Procedural Background
In his complaint, plaintiff alleged that, on July 3, 2014, he noticed an entry for $1, 229.00 on his credit report, submitted by defendant I.C. System. Upon further investigation, plaintiff learned that the original creditor to this debt was Banfield Pet Hospital. Plaintiff alleged that he never visited Banfield nor did he incur a debt for $1, 229.00 or any other amount. Rather, the alleged debt belonged to plaintiff's father, Richard L. Hayes, and is, in fact, listed as a debt on the elder Hayes' bankruptcy filings. Plaintiff therefore alleged in his complaint that defendants commingled his father's debt with his own and damaged plaintiff's credit score. On June 19, 2014, plaintiff hired counsel A. Scott Waddell of the Waddell Law Firm, LLC and Bryce B. Bell and Daniel Shaw of Bell Law, LLC. On July 11, 2014, plaintiff's counsel sent defendant I.C. System a Nelson v. Miller letter which included an offer to settle for $7, 500.00. On August 8, 2014, in response to plaintiff's demand, defendant I.C. System denied any liability and rejected plaintiff's settlement demand.
On September 5, 2014, plaintiff filed a Petition for Damages for defendants' alleged violations of the FDCPA and KCPA in the Johnson County, Kansas District Court. Dkt. 1-1. On October 9, 2014, defendants removed this matter to the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. Dkt. 1. On October 16, 2014, defendants answered plaintiff's Petition, denying any and all liability and requesting an award of attorney's fees. Dkt. 8. On this same date, defendants submitted an offer of judgment to plaintiff. Plaintiff accepted this offer on October 30, 2014. Plaintiff now seeks an award of attorney's costs and fees in the amount of $9, 944.88.
II. Legal Standard
The FDCPA allows for attorney's fees for successful litigants. The Act provides, in relevant part:
Except as otherwise provided in this section, any debt collector who fails to comply with any provision of this subchapter with respect to any person is liable to such person in an amount equal to the sum of...
(3) in the case of any successful action to enforce the foregoing liability, the costs of the action, together with a reasonable attorney's fee as determined by the court
15 U.S.C. § 1692k.
Likewise, the KCPA allows for reasonable attorney's fees following a settlement. The Act specifically provides:
(e) Except for services performed by the office of the attorney general or the office of a county or district attorney, the court may award to the prevailing party reasonable attorney fees, including those on appeal, limited to the work reasonably performed if:
(1) The consumer complaining of the act or practice that violates this act has brought or maintained an action the consumer knew to be groundless and the prevailing party is the supplier; or a supplier has committed an act or practice that violates this act and the prevailing party is the consumer; and
(2) an action under this section has been terminated by a judgment, or settled.
K.S.A. § 50-634(e)(1)-(2).
III. Legal Analysis
Plaintiff requests an award of fees in the amount of $9, 944.88, which represents $9, 730.00 for 35.53 hours of work and $214.88 for costs and fees associated with the litigation. Dkt. 13. Defendants contest the amount of this award given the limited amount of work done and the early settlement and requests that the court award plaintiff and/or his counsel no more than $2, 714.88. Dkt. 16. Specifically, defendants argue that the claimed fees and costs are unreasonable due to: (1) billings prior to when counsel took on plaintiff's case, and (2) overlapping, excessive and ...