Consumer not Entitled to Appellate Attorney Fees if Benefit is Solely for Attorney, According to 11th Circuit

The issue of attorney fees and to what extent a plaintiff is entitled to them if they prevail on a Fair Debt Collection Practices (FDCPA) and Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) was recently addressed by the Eleventh Circuit in Alhassid v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC, No. 18-11985 (11th Cir. Apr. 8, 2019). This case involved some twists and turns, including two appeals to the Eleventh Circuit and a focus on state law.

In Alhassid, the consumer was successful on her FDCPA and FDUTPA claims. She was awarded $5,000 in actual damages and $1,000 in statutory damages under the FDCPA. The FDCPA allows the plaintiff to recover reasonable legal fees and costs if he or she prevails on the claim; the FDUTPA allows attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party (either plaintiff or defendant). Since the consumer prevailed, the district court awarded her $435,704.50 in attorney fees. Nationstar appealed the award, arguing that it was unreasonable, but the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s order.

The consumer then filed a motion to recover the attorney fees she incurred as a result of Nationstar’s appeal. The district court held that the consumer was not entitled to the appellate attorney fees and, on a second appeal in this case, the Eleventh Circuit agreed.

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