Negron v. Mallon Chevrolet Inc.
When ruling on a prevailing party's request for attorneys' fees, a court can multiply the reasonable hourly rate by the number of hours reasonably expended, to reach a presumptively reasonable fee, and then discount that fee, to account for partial success. Previously, the court granted judgment to the plaintiff on her claims that the defendant dealership, Mallon Chevrolet Inc., violated TILA, the Truth In Lending Act, 15 United States Code §1601, and awarded statutory damages of $1,000, plus reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. The court granted judgment to the defendant on the plaintiff's unfair trade practices count. The plaintiff moved for attorneys' fees. The legal issues were relatively simple and did not require a high level of skill. There was only one deposition and one four-hour trial. There were no motions for summary judgment. The court approved the rate of $325 per hour for the plaintiffs' attorneys, Bernard Kennedy and Michael Kennedy. The court found it was unnecessary for two attorneys to work simultaneously on the case and that the amount of time spent to research and to write briefs was excessive. Considering the records of this and similar cases, the court found that 75 hours was reasonable. The court rejected any claim it should reduce the presumptively reasonable fee of $24,375 by 50 percent, because the plaintiff was successful on one of two claims. That approach, wrote the court, "ignores the reality that separate claims in the same lawsuit are often on unequal footing, requiring different emphasis, priority, and investment of time and resources." A significant part of the plaintiff's attorneys' work was related to the successful TILA claim. Recognizing it would be difficult to identify the legal services associated with unsuccessful claims, the court reduced the presumptively reasonable fee by 30 percent, because the plaintiff only received partial success, and awarded attorneys' fees of $17,062. The court also approved $1,198 in costs.