United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
WENDY MCWILLIAMS, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated PLAINTIFF
ADVANCED RECOVERY SYSTEMS, INC.; YOUNG WELLS WILLIAMS, P.A. DEFENDANTS
CARLTON W. REEVES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the plaintiff's motion for attorney's
fees and costs. The matter is fully briefed and ready for
Factual and Procedural History
McWilliams commenced this suit in 2015. She alleged that
Advanced Recovery Systems and the Young Wells Williams law
firm violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
when they attempted to collect a medical debt from her.
See 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et seq.
parties' dispute ripened into substantial motions to
dismiss and motions for summary judgment. See McWilliams
v. Advanced Recovery Sys., Inc., 108 F.Supp.3d 456
(S.D.Miss. 2015); McWilliams v. Advanced Recovery Sys.,
Inc., 174 F.Supp.3d 936 (S.D.Miss. 2016). Two classes
were eventually certified. See McWilliams v. Advanced
Recovery Sys., Inc., 310 F.R.D. 337 (S.D.Miss. 2015).
And, in an unforeseeable twist, it became necessary for the
parties to stop other plaintiff's attorneys from raiding
the certified classes. See McWilliams v. Advanced
Recovery Sys., Inc., 176 F.Supp.3d 635 (S.D.Miss. 2016).
plaintiff had one count dismissed in 2015, but largely
prevailed in 2016 on the counts remaining at the summary
judgment stage. The parties thereafter agreed to settle their
differences. In 2017, the Court conducted a fairness hearing
and concluded that the proposed class settlement was fair and
reasonable. This motion is all that remains before the case
is no dispute that the plaintiff is the prevailing party
under the FDCPA. Her attorneys are entitled to reimbursement
of their reasonable fees and costs. (They were not, for
example, paid from the class members' settlement funds.)
The question is whether all of their time and costs are
plaintiff seeks $115, 000 in attorney's fees and $2,
053.45 in recoverable costs. She presents evidence that her
attorneys-four worked on the case, to varying
degrees-typically receive reasonable fee awards of $350 and
$400 an hour in other districts throughout the country,
including other districts within this circuit. She also has
thoroughly documented the hour-by-hour effort spent
litigating her case: the time ranged from 7.6 hours for a
senior associate to 260.7 hours for the lead
attorney. That time, at those rates, would lead to a
$131, 940 award. The attorneys, however, say they utilized
billing judgment to voluntarily reduce the fees they seek to
$115, 000 and the reimbursable costs to $2, 053.45.
defendants object. They say this was a routine FDCPA case
worthy of only $300 an hour for lead counsel, and take issue
with much of the time expended on the case. Their most
significant objection is to paying for time spent fending off
the poaching attorneys, since those fees were supposed to be
recouped from the poachers themselves, and not from the
defendants. The defendants also object to what they claim is
paralegal work, duplicative work, and work on the
plaintiff's unsuccessful cause of action.
always, the Court uses the lodestar method to calculate an
award of fees.” Lighthouse Rescue Mission, Inc. v.
City of Hattiesburg, Miss., No. 2:12-CV-184-KS-MTP, 2014
WL 4402229, at *3 (S.D.Miss. Sept. 5, 2014) (citation
omitted). The lodestar is calculated by multiplying the
number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation by the
reasonable hourly billing rate. Id.; see Hensley
v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). “[T]he
lodestar method yields a fee that is presumptively
sufficient.” Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel. Winn,
130 S.Ct. 1662, 1673 (2010) (citations omitted).
Court may then adjust the lodestar to account for factors
that bear on the propriety of a fee award-the so-called
Johnson factors. Shipes v. Trinity Indus.,
987 F.2d 311, 320 & n.6 (5th Cir. 1993) (citing
Johnson v. Ga. Highway Express, 488 F.2d 714 (5th
Cir. 1974)). The “most critical” factor is
“the degree of success obtained.” Abner v.
Kan. City S. Ry. Co., 541 F.3d 372, 377 (5th Cir. 2008).
party seeking reimbursement of attorneys' fees has the
burden of establishing the number of attorney hours expended,
and can meet that burden only by presenting evidence that is
adequate for the court to determine what hours should be
included in the reimbursement.” La. Power &
Light Co. v. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319, 324 (5th Cir. 1995)
(quotation marks, citation, brackets, and ellipses omitted).
The amount sought and the hours expended must be reasonable.
Id. at 325. “[T]he burden is on the applicant
to produce satisfactory evidence . . . that the requested
rates are in line with those prevailing in the community for
similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill,
experience and reputation.” McClain v. Lufkin
Indus., Inc., 649 F.3d 374, 381 (5th Cir. 2011)
(quotation marks and citation omitted). “The court
should exclude all time that is excessive, duplicative, or
inadequately documented.” Jimenez v. Wood Cnty.,
Tex., 621 F.3d 372, 379-80 (5th Cir. 2010).
attorney's fee award ruling should “explain how
each of the Johnson factors affects its award”
but “need not be meticulously detailed to survive
appellate review.” In re High Sulfur Content
Gasoline Prod. Liab. Litig., 517 F.3d 220, 228 (5th Cir.
2008); see Blanchard v. Bergeron, 893 F.2d 87, 89
(5th Cir. 1990) (“we will not require the trial
court's findings to be so excruciatingly explicit in this
area of minutiae that decisions on fee awards consume more
judicial paper than did the cases from which they
arose”). As the Supreme Court has explained,
“trial courts need not, and indeed should not, become
green-eyeshade accountants. The essential goal in shifting
fees (to either party) is to do rough justice, not to achieve
auditing perfection.” Fox v. Vice, 131 S.Ct.
2205, 2216 (2011).
the Supreme Court's admonition, the parties' detailed
briefing makes a meticulous, green-eyeshade review