United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
Bryan Harwell, United States District Judge.
matter is before the court on Plaintiff's motion for
attorneys' fees. [Doc. 15]. On September 13, 2017,
Plaintiff filed her Complaint against Defendant seeking
damages for Defendant's violations of the South Carolina
Unfair Trade Practices Act (“SCUTPA), Fraud, and Breach
of Contract. [Doc. 1]. On October 17, 2017, after Defendant
failed to file an Answer or otherwise defend, Plaintiff filed
a Motion for Entry of Default with the Clerk of Court. On
October 25, 2017, the Clerk of Court entered default against
Defendant. [Doc. 10]. Thereafter, on December 19, 2017,
Plaintiff filed her Motion for Default Judgment. [Doc. 11].
Defendant was served with each of these documents and,
despite the passage of time, has failed to file any response
with this court. On March 12, 2018, this Court granted
default judgment in Plaintiff's favor. [Doc. 13].
was awarded damages against Defendant following
Defendant's default and the court's resolution of
Plaintiff's motion for default judgment. Plaintiff was
awarded damages in the amount of $61, 455.00 due to
Defendant's violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade
Practices Act. [Doc. 13].
her present motion, Plaintiff seeks an award of
attorneys' fees in the amount of $11, 342.50 and costs in
the amount of $400.00. The motion is supported by affidavits
of Plaintiff's counsel (including summaries of the work
done and affirmation of counsel's regular rates), the
contingency fee agreement between Plaintiff and her counsel,
a recent survey reflecting median rates charged by attorneys
for work in the relevant geographic and subject matter areas,
and a third party attorney affidavit offered in support of
the skill level and rate for Penny Cauley.
addressing a petition for attorneys' fees, a court
“must first determine the lodestar figure by
multiplying the number of reasonable hours expended times a
reasonable rate”. Green v. Momentum Motor Grp.,
LLC, Civil Action No. 0:17-cv-01449-CMC, 2018 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 122, at *2 (D.S.C. Jan. 2, 2018). In determining the
reasonable hours and rates expended, the court will apply the
following twelve factors deemed determinative in the Fourth
Circuit in making such a determination. Barber v.
Kimbrell's Inc., 577 F.2d 216, 226 n. 28 (4th Cir.
(1) the time and labor expended; (2) the novelty and
difficulty of the questions raised; (3) the skill required to
properly perform the legal services rendered; (4) the
attorney's opportunity costs in pressing the instant
litigation; (5) the customary fee for like work; (6) the
attorney's expectations at the outset of the litigation;
(7) the time limitations imposed by the client or
circumstances; (8) the amount in controversy and the results
obtained; (9) the experience, reputation and ability of the
attorney; (10) the undesirability of the case within the
legal community in which the suit arose; (11) the nature and
length of the professional relationship between attorney and
client; and (12) attorneys' fees awards in similar cases.
addition to the attorney's own affidavits, the fee
applicant must produce satisfactory ‘specific evidence
of the 'prevailing market rates in the relevant
community' for the type of work for which he seeks an
award.'” Plyler v. Evatt, 902 F.2d 273,
277 (4th Cir. 1990). Market rates of attorneys in the same
community as Plaintiffs' counsel is the first place to
examine when making a determination as to the market rate.
Rum Creek Coal Sales v. Caperton, 31 F.3d 169, 179
(4th Cir. 1994). The burden is on Plaintiff's counsel to
provide evidence “...in addition to the attorney's
own affidavits -- 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.” Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886,
895 n.11, 104 S.Ct. 1541, 1547 (1984).
The only cost sought by Plaintiff is the $400.00 filing fee
associated with the institution of this action. The court
finds this cost proper and awards costs in the amount of
Fees. The undersigned attorneys, Penny Hays Cauley
and William K. Geddings, seek an award of attorneys' fees
for work performed in this matter. Penny Cauley seeks a fee
award for 17.70 hours at a rate of $400.00 per hour for a
total of $7, 080.00. William Geddings seeks a fee award for
15.50 hours at a rate of $275.00 per hour for a total of $4,
262.50. The hours and rates set forth above are evidenced by
affidavits filed by Penny Hays Cauley and William K.
Geddings. [Doc. 15, Exhibits “A” and
support of her request for attorney's fees, Penny Cauley
submitted the South Carolina portions of the 2015-2016 United
States Consumer Law Attorney Fees Survey Report written by
Mr. Ronald J. Burge. This survey sets forth a median rate for
South Carolina attorneys handling cases of this nature of
$325.00, and a 95% Median Attorney rate of $400.00. This Fee
Survey has been utilized in determining the reasonableness of
attorney fees in numerous other federal cases. See Hicks
v. City of Tuscaloosa, 2016 WL 7029827 (N.D. Ala., May
24, 2016); Jordan v. City of Birmigham,
2015 WL 12830455 (N.D. Ala., June 22, 2015); Decker v.
Transworlds Systems, Inc., 2009 WL 2916819 (N.D. Ill.,
September 1, 2009); Renninger v. Phillips & Cohen
Associates, Ltd., 2010 WL 3259417 (M.D. Fla., August 18,
2010); and Suleesky v. Bryant Lafayette &
Associates, 2010 WL 1904968 (E.D. Wis., May 10, 2010).
While Penny Cauley seeks an award at the high end of fees
charged by other lawyers handling consumer cases in South
Carolina, she has submitted additional support of her fee
request with the affidavit of David Maxfield. [Doc. 15,
Exhibit “E”]. Mr. Maxfield attested that the
$400.00 rate sought by Penny Cauley is appropriate for an
attorney of her experience and skill due to her outstanding
reputation as a consumer advocate and her frequent speaking
appearances in national seminars, as well as due to the
dearth of lawyers who handle cases of this nature in South
Carolina. Id. Penny Cauley has handled numerous
cases before this Court and throughout the District of South
Carolina on behalf of consumers. Based upon the Consumer Law
Attorney Fee Survey and the affidavit of David Maxfield, this
Court finds that Penny Cauley has set forth sufficient
evidence that the rate requested is in line with those
prevailing in this community for similar services by lawyers
of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation.
Therefore, this Court finds the rate of $400.00 per hour
sought by Penny Cauley is reasonable.
William Geddings, the court notes that the $275.00 rate
sought by Mr. Geddings has been found to be reasonable by the
South Carolina District Court in a separate action.
Green, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122, at
As Mr. Geddings' fee falls within the above discussed
range of fees appropriate for actions of this ...