United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
MARK E. FORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the Court are Plaintiff's Bill of Costs (ECF No.
53) filed September 30, 2019 and her Motion for
Attorney's Fees (ECF No. 54) and supporting brief and
exhibits (ECF No. 55) filed on October 1, 2019. Defendant
filed its Opposition to Plaintiff's Counsel's Motion
for Attorney's Fees (ECF No. 59) on October 15, 2019. The
matter was referred to the undersigned on November 4, 2019.
For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Bill of
Costs (ECF No. 53) is GRANTED and Plaintiff's Motion for
Attorney's Fees (ECF No. 54) is GRANTED IN PART.
Stephanie Reygadas (“Reygadas”) filed this civil
action against DNF Associates, LLC (“DNF”) on
October 29, 2018, alleging violations of the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C.
§ 1692, et seq., and the Arkansas Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act (“AFDCPA”), Ark. Code Ann. §
17-24-501, et seq. (ECF No. 1). DNF sued Reygadas in state
court, only to have DNF hire Radius Global Solutions
(“RGS”) to contact Reygadas, instead of her
retained counsel, to “settle” the debt.
(Id., pp. 5-6).
November 20, 2018, DNF moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6),
arguing it was not a “debt collector” under the
primary purpose prong of the FDCPA and the AFDCPA because it
was a “passive debt buyer, ” and that it could
not be liable under the FDCPA or AFDCPA for RGS's contact
with Reygadas. (ECF Nos. 8, 9). After further research of
DNF's debt collection activities in Arkansas, Reygadas
filed a First Amended Complaint, which included more facts
establishing that DNF's primary purpose was debt
collection. (ECF No. 11). Reygadas also filed an opposition
to DNF's motion to dismiss with a memorandum brief in
support, explaining how DNF was a “debt
collector” under the primary purpose prong of the
statutory definition of a “debt collector, ” and
how it knew Reygadas was represented by counsel and violated
the FDCPA and the AFDCPA by hiring RGS to collect the debt
directly from Reygadas. (ECF No. 12). DNF moved to dismiss
the First Amended Complaint on December 18, 2018. (ECF Nos.
parties held their Rule 26(f) Conference on December 10,
2018. (ECF No. 16). During the conference, DNF requested a
settlement demand from Reygadas. As requested, Reygadas made
an Offer of Compromise on December 12, 2018: Reygadas would
release her claims in exchange for payment of $12, 000.00 and
cessation of debt collection efforts against her. (ECF No.
55-3). The Offer of Compromise also explained the time that
Reygadas' counsel had devoted to the case prior to filing
the original complaint and then preparing the First Amended
Complaint and opposition to the motion to dismiss, and that
if DNF intended to litigate the “passive debt
buyer” arguments through trial, then the attorney time
and resources it would take to resolve the case through a
trial would likely far exceed the money a jury might allow
Reygadas for her statutory and actual damages.
(Id.). DNF did not accept Reygadas' offer of
compromise, make a counter-offer, or engage in any settlement
then prepared and served her Initial Disclosures (which
included several debt collection complaints and other
filings, i.e., default judgments, by DNF in Arkansas state
courts that Reygadas' counsel spent time searching for
and organizing so Reygadas could prove DNF's primary
purpose was debt collection), Interrogatories, and Request
for Admissions. She had already served her Request for
Production. DNF then moved to stay discovery and to shorten
Reygadas' time to respond to the motion to stay
discovery. (ECF Nos. 18-20). On December 28, 2018, the Court
denied DNF's motion to dismiss, the motion to stay
discovery, and the motion to shorten time. (ECF No. 22).
moved for summary judgment on March 15, 2019. (ECF Nos.
25-27). In order to oppose DNF's motion for summary
judgment, Reygadas' counsel spent time identifying 129
debt collection lawsuits and the associated filings (i.e.,
motions for default judgments and default judgments) DNF had
filed in Arkansas state courts after Reygadas filed her
complaint against DNF. These debt collection lawsuits were
presented in support of her opposition to DNF's motion
for summary judgment, to specifically rebut DNF's
“passive debt buyer” argument by showing it was
still engaging in debt collection activities by suing
Arkansas consumers to collect defaulted debts it had
purchased. Reygadas' counsel also spent time researching
the “passive debt buyer” issue to prepare her
opposition to DNF's motion for summary judgment. (ECF
Nos. 28, 29).
16, 2019, the Court found as a matter of law that DNF was a
“debt collector” as defined by the FDCPA and the
AFDCPA; that it violated the FDCPA and AFDCPA because it knew
Reygadas was represented by counsel when it hired RGS to
collect the debt from her; and, that the only remaining issue
for jury trial was to determine the damages that Reygadas
could recover. (ECF No. 35). DNF moved for certification for
an interlocutory appeal on May 23, 2019 (ECF Nos. 36, 37),
which the Court denied on May 29, 2019 (ECF No. 38).
then pursued discovery, including the service of
interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and
the deposition of Reygadas. (ECF No. 55, p. 5). After
Reygadas' deposition, counsel for the parties resolved
the case by the accepted Offer of Judgment filed on September
17, 2019. (ECF No. 51). Judgment in the amount of $4, 000.00,
plus post-judgment interest, was entered on the same date.
(ECF No. 52). The Offer of Judgment further provided for
payment of “reasonable attorneys' fees and taxable
costs incurred in this action prior to expiration of this
offer, such fees to be determined by agreement of the parties
and, if the parties cannot agree, by the Court upon motion of
the Plaintiff.” (ECF No. 51, ¶ 1). Reygadas filed
her Bill of Costs on September 30, 2019. (ECF No. 53). Her
pending Motion for Attorney's Fees and supporting brief
were filed on October 1, 2019. (ECF Nos. 54, 55). DNF's
response in opposition to Reygadas' motion for
attorney's fees was filed on October 15, 2019. (ECF No.
59). The matter was referred to the undersigned on November
seeks a total of $803.28 in costs and $26, 550.00 in
attorney's fees. In support of her motion for
attorney's fees, Reygadas submitted the sworn declaration
of her attorney, Corey D. McGaha (“McGaha”) (ECF
No. 55-1); an itemized list of hours billed to this case by
McGaha (ECF No. 55-2); the Offer of Judgment (ECF No. 55-3);
the sworn Affidavit of Todd M. Turner, an Arkansas attorney
(ECF No. 55-4); and, a separate Bill of Costs (ECF No. 53).
As noted above, the Offer of Judgment explicitly provides
that Reygadas is entitled to recover reasonable
attorney's fees and costs. The issue here is whether the
amounts claimed by Reygadas are reasonable. DNF does not
object to the amount of costs. Regarding attorney's fees,
DNF objects to the reasonableness of the hourly rate claimed
by McGaha and the number of hours expended in the case. (ECF
28 U.S.C. § 1920, a court may tax certain litigation
fees as costs. Pursuant to that statute, the Court awards the
Service of Summons
Transcript of Reygadas' Deposition
Reygadas' total cost award, excluding attorney's
fees, is $803.28.