Understand the complexities and nuances of the Bankruptcy Code to better advise clients and prepare for court.
By Diane Davis
M&T Bank must pay more than $35,000 in attorneys’ fees for violating the discharge injunction in a Chapter 13 case, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma held Ridley v. M & T Bank (In re Ridley) , 2017 BL 254140, Bankr. E.D. Okla., No. 16-8008-TRC, 7/21/17 .
The time spent and services rendered by the attorneys were reasonable, necessary, and beneficial to Charles Ridley’s case, Judge Tom R. Cornish wrote July 21.
Ridley successfully sued M&T Bank to force it to correct its records to reflect that his home mortgage account was current after successfully completing his Chapter 13 plan in bankruptcy. Ridley also had to force M&T Bank to remove false and unsubstantiated fees from his account and to stop any foreclosure processes that the bank was charging him to undertake, the court said.
He was awarded actual and punitive damages plus reasonable fees and costs.
Ridley asked for $41,255 in attorneys’ fees and $644 in expenses; M&T sought a substantial reduction.
Ridley’s case was a “classic” Chapter 13 struggle with mortgage servicers who refuse to acknowledge the Chapter 13 process, the court said.
The court found no reason to reduce the amount of fees awarded based on settlement negotiations. It was M&T Bank who prevented settlement of the case by failing to provide a representative who could participate in settlement discussions, the court said.
The $300 hourly rate charged by Ridley’s attorney Greggory Colpitts was reasonable and customary for the jurisdiction for an attorney with his extensive background and experience, the court said. The $200 hourly rate charged by first-year attorney Lauren Colpitts, however, was too high, and based on the quality of her work and qualifications, $150 per hour was more reasonable, the court said. It reduced the award accordingly.
Ridley’s final total award, including fees, expenses, lost wages and punitive damages, was more than $48,000.
The Colpitts Law Firm, Tulsa, Okla., represented Charles Ridley; Stites & Harbison PPLC, Atlanta; and Kivell, Rayment and Francis P.C., Tulsa, Okla., represented M&T Bank. Chapter 13 Trustee William Mark Bonney, Muskogee, Okla., represented himself.
To contact the reporter on this story: Diane Davis in Washington at DDavis@bna.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jay Horowitz at JHorowitz@bna.com
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)