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Beck v. Test Masters Educational Services, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

November 10, 2014

JARROD BECK, ERIN GALLOWAY, and KEERTHI REDDY, Plaintiffs,
v.
TEST MASTERS EDUCATIONAL SERVICES, INC., Defendant

Page 13

For Jarrod Beck, Keerthi Reddy, Erin Galloway, Plaintiffs: Hassan A. Zavareei, LEAD ATTORNEY, TYCKO & ZAVAREEI LLP, Washington, DC USA.

For Test Masters Educational Services, Inc., Defendant: Charles T. Jeremiah, LEAD ATTORNEY, CHAMBERLAIN HRDLICKA WHITE WILLIAMS & MARTIN, Houston, TX USA; David John Schenck, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Austin, TX USA; Kevin D. Jewell, LEAD ATTORNEY, CHAMBERLAIN, HRDLICKA, WHITE, WILLIAMS & AUGHTRY, Houston, TX USA.

Page 14

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge.

Plaintiffs Jarrod Beck, Erin Galloway, Keerthi Reddy (collectively " plaintiffs" ) seek attorneys' fees and expenses from defendant Test Masters Educational Services, Inc. (" TES" ). This Court entered summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs for claims under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act, D.C. Code § 28-3905(k)(2)(A) on December 18, 2013. The Court also awarded each plaintiff $1,500, for a total of $4,500, in statutory damages against TES and allowed plaintiffs to seek attorneys' fees. Plaintiffs now seek $963,415.85 in attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to the Court's order. For the reasons discussed below, plaintiffs' Petition for Attorneys' Fees and Expenses will be granted for a reduced amount.

I. BACKGROUND

This case was originally filed in 2004 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Case No. 04-CA-005586. Plaintiffs alleged claims of common law fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and violation of the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures

Page 15

Act, D.C. Code § 28-3904(e), (f), (s) (" CPPA" ), arising out of plaintiffs' confusion between LSAT preparation courses offered by TES and a similar company, TestMasters. The case was removed to this Court on diversity grounds on August 13, 2004. Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1. Since removal, the case has been transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas for Multidistrict Litigation proceedings and returned to this Court where summary judgment was granted against plaintiffs by Judge Robertson on January 27, 2010. Mem., ECF No. 48; Order, ECF No. 49. Plaintiffs appealed the summary judgment and the D.C. Circuit affirmed summary judgment on the common law fraud and negligence claims, but reversed as to the CPPA claims. Beck v. Servs., Inc., 407 Fed. App'x 491 (D.C. Cir. 2011). The case returned to this Court for multiple motions, discovery disputes, and finally, summary judgment on plaintiffs' remaining CPPA claims on December 18, 2013. Order, ECF No. 196; Mem. Op., ECF No. 197.

The Court entered judgment against TES for violation of the CPPA and encouraged the parties to meet and confer to determine a reasonable amount of attorneys' fees. Order, ECF No. 196. Failing to reach an agreement, plaintiffs filed their initial Petition for Attorneys' Fees and Expenses on January 31, 2014. Pet. for Att'y Fees and Expenses, ECF No. 203. The Court denied plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief and awarded $1,500 per plaintiff, for a total of $4,500, in statutory damages on June 20, 2014. Order, ECF No. 218; Mem. Op., ECF No. 219. The Court again encouraged the parties to determine a reasonable amount of attorneys' fees and dismissed the initial Petition for Attorneys' Fees and Expenses without prejudice to be refiled within thirty days if the parties were unable to come to a resolution.

Plaintiffs filed the present Petition for Attorneys' Fees and Expenses on July 21, 2014. Pet. for Att'y Fees and Expenses, ECF No. 221. Plaintiffs seek $963,415.85 in attorneys' fees and expenses. Defendant filed its Opposition to plaintiffs' Petition on August 4, 2014. Mem. in Opp'n to Pis.' Pet. for Att'y Fees and Expenses, ECF No. 222. Plaintiffs entered their Reply to defendant's Opposition on August 14, 2014. Reply in Supp. of Pet. for Att'y Fees and Expenses, ECF No. 223. Defendant sought leave to file a Surreply to plaintiffs' Reply on September 3, 2014. Mot. for Leave to File Surreply, ECF No. 225; Surreply to Pis.' Reply in Supp. of Pet for Att'y Fees and Expenses, ECF No. 226. Plaintiffs' filed a Response to defendant's Motion for Leave to File a Surreply on September 5, 2014. Opp'n to Def.'s Mot for Leave to File Surreply, ECF No. 227.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The CPPA allows prevailing claimants to recover " reasonable attorney's fees." D.C. Code § 28-3905(k)(2)(B). The Court awarded attorneys' fees to plaintiffs in summary judgment, alongside statutory damages for their CPPA claims, and plaintiffs are entitled to recover reasonable fees and costs incurred in this case. In re InPhonic, Inc., 674 F.Supp.2d 273, 279 (D.D.C. 2009). Fees awarded on a successful claim " must be reasonable in relation to the success achieved," and a plaintiff may only recover fees " for work related to the claim" on which plaintiff was successful. Williams v. First Gov't Mortg. & Investors Corp., 225 F.3d 738, 746, 343 U.S.App.D.C. 222 (D.C. Cir. 2000). " Fees for time spent on claims that ultimately were unsuccessful should be excluded only when the claims are 'distinctly different" in all ...


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