ST. LOUIS – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri ruled in favor of a man who was evicted by his landlord and claims to have incurred 98 cents in actual costs against one of the defendants.
Jesse Morgan filed a lawsuit against his landlord, Ronald K. Reynolds and the Vogler Law Firm, P.C., and others.
The court said it granted summary judgment to Morgan based on the fact the defendants failed to answer the complaint promptly. Six months after the deadline to file a response, they asked the court for permission to do so.
U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh denied the request and found the Vogler law firm violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Reynolds was found guilty of violating the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
While Morgan claimed costs of about $1, the judge awarded him damages.
“Plaintiff thereafter filed motions to have judgment entered in his favor against the Vogler defendants in an amount of $1,000.98 and against defendant Reynolds in the amount of $2,222.50," Limbaugh wrote.
Vogler argued the $1,000 levy wasn’t reasonable because “their behaviors were not egregious and that their technical violations of the statute do not rise to a level deserving of the maximum damages.”
The ruling said the factors considered by the court included, “the frequency and persistence of noncompliance by the debt collector, the nature of such noncompliance, and the extent to which such noncompliance was intentional.”
The opinion stated that Vogler violated at least five sections of the FDCPA. Instead of reviewing each violation, however, the court said it would highlight the most egregious violations.
“The number of FDCPA violations is a relevant consideration under the ‘frequency and persistence’ factor for determining whether the full $1,000 statutory award is reasonable,” according to the opinion.
After determining that the Vogler defendants committed several violations of the FDCPA, the court said: “the facts and circumstances here support the full amount of the $1,000 damages award against the three Vogler defendants jointly and severally.”
The Vogler defendants also argued against the plaintiff’s request for 98 cents. The court said the 98 cents is reasonable because there is evidence that the plaintiff paid for the cost of a postage stamp to send two letters.
Against Reynolds, the plaintiff requested $2,222.50 in damages as a result of his alleged unlawful business practices, according to the district court.
“First, plaintiff submits evidence that plaintiff incurred legal expenses of $1,235 due to defendant’s improper filing of the lawsuit,” the opinion said.
Second, the plaintiff submitted evidence that he spent $987.50 on legal fees related to setting aside the wrongfully obtained default judgment, according to the court.
The court said the plaintiff also paid $900 for attorney’s fees for filing and representing him in his Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings, and $335 in filing fees and associated costs.
The court granted the $2,222.50 in damages and allowed the plaintiff to submit his motion for attorneys’ fees within 14 days.