While there are many reported cases discussing attorney fee awards to successful plaintiffs under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, fee awards for defendants who had to endure bad faith complaints are few and far between. Recently, one of these rare opinions surfaced in the Eastern District of Missouri in Nguyen v. Capital One Bank, (USA), N.A., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46716 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 4, 2014).
The underlying putative class action complaint was filed in state court and removed by the defendants who then filed a motion to dismiss. The District Court granted the unopposed motion to dismiss and the subsequent motion for reconsideration filed by the plaintiff. The motions were granted due to the fact that, “Counts I through V are clearly barred by the FDCPA’s one-year statute of limitations and Count VI is insufficient to sustain a common law negligence claim and is additionally precluded by Missouri’s economic loss doctrine.” Id. at *2.
In support of their claim that the complaint was filed in bad faith and for the purpose of harassment, the defendants cited plaintiff’s attorney’s website that boasted of his representation of consumer plaintiffs and his class action history. The defendants argued that someone with such experience should have known that the claims were time barred. In addition, the defendants argued that the plaintiff’s attorney failed to serve defendants with the state court petition, failed to apply for admission to the district court after removal, failed to respond to the motion to dismiss yet still publicized the lawsuit on his website and criticized the defendant’s business practices.
The court agreed that the complaint was filed in bad faith and for the purpose of harassment, noting that the complaint was filed more than four years after the alleged violations occurred. In addition, the court noted that plaintiff “made no effort whatsoever in prosecuting this case . . . and then further failed to defend his position by not responding to the motion to dismiss.” Id. at *4.
The court found that the complaint was filed in bad faith and for the purpose of harassment and granted the motion for attorney’s fees in full, entering an award of $7,325.