Gomez v. People's United Bank
A court can award supplemental attorneys' fees for representing a client in a District Court challenge to a consumer arbitration award. In November 2008, the plaintiff immigrant, Julio Gomez, purchased a 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer from the defendant, Country Motors II, which does business as Bob's Dodge. The Chevrolet allegedly experienced mechanical difficulties. In March 2009, one of the defendant's employees allegedly persuaded the plaintiff to trade the Chevrolet for a Nissan. Eventually, the plaintiff discovered that he was responsible for two sets of motor-vehicle payments. He revoked his acceptance of both motor vehicles and discovered that his credit had been damaged, because he failed to make both sets of motor-vehicle payments. Banks refused to furnish credit. One raised the interest on his credit card debt from 15 to 36 percent. An arbitrator found that the defendant falsely represented that the purchase of the Nissan constituted an exchange that would relieve the plaintiff of his obligation for the Chevrolet and failed to accurately disclose finance charges and to display a Spanish buyer's guide. The arbitrator awarded the plaintiff $105,345. In July 2012, the District Court granted judgment in the amount of $105,720 and approved $37,373 in attorneys' fees. The plaintiff requested a supplemental award of attorneys' fees, because he litigated the defendant's challenge in District Court. The Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act provides, "a court may award, to the plaintiff . . . reasonable attorney's fees based on the work reasonably performed by the attorney and not on the amount of recovery." The District Court found that the plaintiff was entitled to attorneys' fees to litigate the defendant's challenge in District Court. The plaintiff's attorney, Daniel Blinn, of the Consumer Law Group, requested compensation of $375 per hour. In a January 2012 decision in a federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, District Court Judge Vanessa Bryant considered other awards of attorneys' fees to Attorney Blinn and approved $325 per hour for Attorney Blinn. Here, the District Court approved 10 hours of legal services at $325 per hour for Attorney Blinn and $262 for Blinn's paralegal, for a total of $3,512.