In hindsight, maybe all-out war wasn’t such a good idea.
A debt collector that spent two years battling a lawsuit brought by a disgruntled consumer will be paying more — a lot more — than the $1,000 the man sought.
Defendant Trident Asset Management LLC owes plaintiff Tommy Kasalo $105,560 in attorney fees, the parties wrote in a joint status report filed with U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly today.
In a written opinion this month, Kennelly instructed the parties to recalculate the fees owed to Kasalo after rejecting his request for $115,000.
“It may seem incongruous to seek a fee award of over $115,000 for a claim whose maximum value was $1,000,” Kennelly wrote.
“It would be even more incongruous, however, to allow defendants to litigate the case to the hilt and then successfully argue that plaintiff should have prosecuted it more cheaply.”
Including other items — $700 in law clerk fees and nearly $3,315 in costs, as well as a $1,000 judgment previously entered in favor of Kasalo — Trident will wind up shelling out just under $110,575.
And that’s not counting the $150,000 or so that Trident and its co-defendant spent on their own lawyers.
Kasalo is represented by his brother, Mario K. Kasalo of The Law Office of M. Kris Kasalo Ltd.
Mario Kasalo said he has never been awarded attorney fees amounting to more than 105 times the amount of the judgment he obtained for a client.
And he doubts many other lawyers have either.
Tommy Kasalo filed his suit against Atlanta-based Trident and OPS 10 LLC of Alpharetta, Ga., in 2012.
He alleges Trident falsely told credit reporting agencies he owes $118 on a Columbia House DVD Club account that was purchased by OPS.
When he called Trident, Kasalo alleges, he was told he had to challenge the purported debt in a letter. The company, however, did not give him its address.
Kasalo alleges Trident violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by falsely stating he had to explain why he disputed the validity of the purported debt.
Trident also failed to send a written notice within five days of his call including information required by the FDCPA, he alleges.
Shortly after filing the suit, Kasalo made a settlement demand of $5,000, which included $1,000 in damages and $4,000 in costs and attorney fees. He later raised the demand to $5,750.
Trident and OPS responded with an offer of $3,000 and Kasalo countered with a demand for $5,500.
Negotiations then stalled and the parties litigated the case for two years.
In July, Kennelly granted summary judgment in favor of OPS on the ground that it is not a debt collector as defined by the FDCPA.
Kennelly also granted summary judgment in favor of Trident on three of Kasalo’s claims and in favor of Kasalo as to liability on three others.
Trident then offered to pay Kasalo $1,000 plus reasonable costs and attorney fees.
The offer called for Kennelly to determine the amount of the costs and fees.
Kasalo accepted the offer and Kennelly entered judgment in his favor.
Kasalo then sought $115,450 in attorney fees, $1,010 in law clerk fees and nearly $3,315 in costs.
In a May 3 opinion, Kennelly reduced the number of hours of attorney and law clerk time to be compensated.
He directed Kasalo and Trident to recalculate the fee award and to submit a report and any objections by today.
But Kennelly overruled other objections Trident made to Kasalo’s fee request.
Kennelly found that Mario Kasalo’s hourly rates — $350 through the end of 2013 and $375 in $2014 — were reasonable.
Kennelly rejected the $275 hourly rate proposed by Trident, writing that the company “essentially pulled it out of the air.”
The case is Tommy Kasalo v. Trident Asset Management LLC, et al., No. 12 C 2900.
“Judge Kennelly confirmed that a consumer could rightfully pursue his claim that a debt sought to be collected is not owed by him,” Mario Kasalo said, “as vigorously as a debt collector may defend against it.”
Trident’s lead attorney, David M. Schultz of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, declined to comment.