United States District Court, D. New Jersey
B. CLARK, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court on a motion by
Plaintiff Leonard Mann (“Plaintiff”) seeking
attorneys' fees and costs in the amount of $3, 157.49
following his acceptance of an Offer of Judgment from Gem
Recovery Systems (“Gem” or
“Defendant”). See Dkt. No. 19. Defendant
opposes Plaintiff's motion. See Dkt. No. 22. For
the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is
GRANTED in part.
filed his Complaint in this matter on January 27, 2017,
alleging that Gem violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act (“FDCPA”) while attempting to collect a
consumer debt from Plaintiff. See Dkt. No. 1. On
March 22, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint.
See Dkt. No. 3. Plaintiff claims that Gem, a debt
collection firm, attempted to collect on his consumer debt by
issuing a collection letter, on or around November 6, 2016,
the terms of which violated the FDCPA. Specifically,
Plaintiff claims that in violation of the FDCPA, the required
notice of rights included in the debt letter was overshadowed
and contradicted by the subsequent notice of rights, and that
the debt letter was mailed in a window envelope that revealed
Plaintiff's personal identifying information.
filed an Answer to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint on May
3, 2017. See Dkt. No. 5. On May 30, 2017, Defendant
served an Offer of Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 68, which states in relevant part:
Defendant . . . hereby offers to allow Judgment to be entered
against it in this action, as follows: 1. In the amount of
$1, 001, 00, in full satisfaction of the Plaintiff's
claims, and 2. For costs incurred to the date of this offer,
and 3. For reasonable attorney fees incurred to the date of
this offer in an amount to be determined by the Court, or
Dkt. No. 9, Ex. A at p. 1-2.
parties were unable to settle the issue of Plaintiff's
reasonable attorneys' fees and costs and Plaintiff filed
the present motion. Plaintiff's present motion seeks $3,
157.49 in attorneys' fees and costs. See Dkt.
No. 19. Defendant filed a Certification in Opposition to
Plaintiff's motion arguing that Plaintiff's counsel
expended an unreasonable amount of hours on certain tasks,
that the hourly rates claimed by Plaintiff are unreasonable
and that Plaintiff improperly seeks fees for non-compensable
the FDCPA, a “debt collector who fails to comply with
any provision” of the Act with respect to an individual
plaintiff is liable for any actual damages sustained as well
as statutory damages as awarded by the court, not to exceed
$1, 000.00. 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692k(a)(1), (a)(2)(A). A
prevailing plaintiff is entitled to recover “‘the
costs of the action, together with a reasonable
attorney's fee as determined by the court.'”
Alexander v. NCO Fin. Sys. Inc., No. 11- 401, 2011
WL 2415156, at *2 (E.D. Pa. June 16, 2011) (quoting 15 U.S.C.
§ 1692k(3)); see also Graziano v. Harrison, 950
F.2d 107, 113 (3d Cir. 1991). Under Section 1692k(a)(3), a
plaintiff may be considered a prevailing party if the
plaintiff succeeds “on any significant issue in
litigation which achieves some of the benefit the parties
sought in bringing suit.” Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983) (quotation omitted).
starting point for the calculation of reasonable
attorney's fees “is the number of hours reasonably
expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable
rate.” Id. The result of this calculation is
called the lodestar. The lodestar “provides an
objective basis on which to make an initial estimate of the
value of the lawyer's services.” Id. To
determine a reasonable hourly rate, the court should evaluate
both the attorney's customary billing rate and the
prevailing market rates in the relevant community.
Missouri v. Jenkins, 491 U.S. 274, 285 (1989);
Blum v. Stevenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 (1984);
Plumbers Union Local No. 690 v. F.P.S. Plumbing,
Inc., No. 08-4271, 2009 WL 2603162, at * 1 (E.D. Pa.
Aug. 21, 2009) (quoting Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892
F.2d 1177, 1183 (3d Cir. 1990)). The market rate is generally
based on the rate charged by attorneys in the region where
the case is litigated. See Pub. Interest Research Grp. of
N.J., Inc. v. Windall, 51 F.3d 1179, 1186-88 (3d Cir.
1995); Washington v. Phila. Cnty. Ct. of Common
Pleas., 89 F.3d 1031, 1035 (3d Cir. 1996) (citing
Blum, 465 U.S. at 895-96 n. 11).
bears the burden “of producing sufficient evidence of
what constitutes a reasonable market rate for the essential
character and complexity of the legal services rendered in
order to make out a prima facie case.” Smith v.
Phila. Hous. Auth., 107 F.3d 223, 225 (3d Cir. 1997).
“This burden is normally addressed by submitting
affidavits of other attorneys in the relevant legal community
attesting to the range of prevailing rates charged by
attorneys with similar skill and experience.” Wade
v. Colaner, No. 06-3715, 2010 WL 5479625, at * 4 (D.N.J.
Dec. 28, 2010). “Thus, the court should assess the
experience and skill of the prevailing party's attorneys
and compare their rates to the rates prevailing in the
community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably
comparable skill, experience, and reputation.”
Rode, 892 F.2d at 1183. Where a plaintiff fails to
meet this burden, the court must exercise its discretion in
determining a reasonable hourly rate. Washington, 89
F.3d at 1036.
argues that the fees sought by Plaintiff are improper for
three reasons. First, Defendant takes issue with the hourly
rate used by Plaintiff. Secondly, Defendant asserts that
Plaintiff expended an unreasonable amount of hours on certain