LYLE E. STROM, Senior District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on the motion of the plaintiff, Lisa Birge ("Birge"), for an award of attorneys' fees (Filing No.
This was a class action for violations of the Fair Debt Practices and Collection Act ("FDCPA") and the Nebraska Consumer Protection Act ("NCPA"). The action was brought against the Brumbaugh & Quandahl law firm, its employees, and Midland Funding ("Midland"), which was a customer of the law firm.
The parties entered into a settlement agreement (Filing No.
The record reflects that this action was commenced in January 2013. Settlement negotiations occurred before any discovery. The parties entered into a tentative settlement in April 2013 with protracted negotiations thereafter (Filing No.
O. Randolph Bragg ("Bragg"), Pamela Car ("Car"), William Reinbrecht ("Reinbrecht"), and Shannon Carter ("Carter") comprise plaintiff's legal team. Birge's attorneys have requested attorneys' fees related to this case and have furnished detailed time sheets (Filing Nos.
46 and 58).
Birge's attorneys allege they have expended the following time. Car expended 29.9 hours at $325 per hour (Filing Nos.
"Although there is no precise formula for determining a reasonable fee, the district court generally begins by calculating the lodestar — the attorney's reasonable hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours reasonably expended." Erikson, 2013 WL 672281, at *4 (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433-37 (1983); Marez v. Saint-Gobain Containers, Inc., 688 F.3d 958, 965 (8th Cir. 2012)). "At that point, other factors `may lead the district court to adjust the fee upward or downward, including the important factor of the `results obtained.'" Id. (citing Marez, 688 F.3d at 965). "The district court should consider the factors set forth in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974)."
The market value in the relevant legal community of the legal services performed is used to determine a reasonable attorney fee. Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 (1984). Reimbursement for work performed by out-of-town lawyers charging out-of-town rates is generally permitted only when in-town counsel with expertise in a particular area cannot be located. See Erikson, 2013 WL 672281, at *4 (citing Avalon Cinema Corp. v. Thompson, 689 F.2d 137, 140-41 (8th Cir. 1982)).
The Defendants first contend that Birge's action was not successful as to her claims against Midland and her state law claim and, therefore, her attorneys are not entitled to compensation for the time spent on those claims. The Defendants claim Birge has abandoned her NCPA claim and described her FDCPA against Midland as "frivolous" and "unsuccessful." Filing No.
Next, the Defendants claim that Birge's legal team charged duplicative time and for clerical tasks. The Court reviewed counsel's filings relative to this motion. There are examples of unnecessary multiple billings and clerical work by attorneys. Filing No.
While case review and consultation between multiple attorneys are not per se unreasonable, the Court's review of the fee schedule reveals some duplicative and administrative entries. The duplicative billings will result in the following reductions in time. Bragg's time will be reduced by 3.6 hours; Car's time will be reduced by 0.5 hour; Reinbrecht's time will be reduced by 1 hour.
In calculating attorneys' fees, "purely clerical or secretarial tasks should not be billed at a paralegal rate, regardless of who performs them." Missouri v. Jenkins by Agyei, 491 U.S. 274, 288 (1989). The clerical billings
Finally, the Defendants contest Birge's attorneys' hourly rates. The Court is familiar with the hourly rates in this community and with the skills and abilities of the attorneys in this case. The Court determines that the hourly fee of Carter's paralegal services is reasonable. The Court will, however, adjust the rates of counsel to reflect the rates which this same legal team received in Erikson v. Credit Bureau Serv., 2013 WL 672281 (D. Neb. Feb. 22, 2013).
The current motion is similar to the fees in Erikson because the plaintiffs' legal teams are identical and these actions are relatively recent. The Erikson opinion evaluated the reasonable fees of this team in February 2013. The following chart depicts the reasonable fees of these professionals according to the Erikson court and the fees those same people now wish to receive as compensation:
In light of the complexity of this case, the availability of local counsel, and the skill of the attorneys involved, the Court will apply the rates in Erikson. According to Birge's filings and the reasonable attorneys fees, the "lodestar calculation" is as follows:
Birge's attorneys seek costs of $1,405.33