TCPA Discount?: Court Cuts Attorney Fee Request from $20k to $800.00 Against Caller—but Shouldn’t It Have Been Zero?

The TCPA is a dangerous little statute that sometimes allows for the recovery of crippling damages for conduct that causes very little harm. Bad stuff.

But there is one difference between the TCPA and other consumer-protection statutes that is defense-friendly: the TCPA does not provide for the recovery of attorney’s fees to a prevailing Plaintiff.

So while a called party might recover up to $1,500.00 per call for calls violating the TCPA, they generally cannot recover attorney’s fees against the caller.

I said generally.

In Wang v. Def. Tax Grp. Inc., Case No.: CV 20-01193-CJC (MRWx), 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 188219 (C.D. Cal.  October 8, 2020) a court inexplicably awarded attorney’s fees to a Plaintiff on a TCPA claim in connection with a default judgment.

Notably the Plaintiff had sought $20,000.00 in fees—for a default judgment folks—but the Court was disincline to award such a large amount. Finding that the $20k request lacked evidentiary support the Court fell back on a local rule fee schedule and assigned fees based on the amount of the awarded recovery.

In Wang the Plaintiff had received 5 text messages in (alleged) violation of the TCPA. The Court awarded $500.00 per call for the first four messages and $1,500.00 per call for the last text message for a total award of $4,000.00. Based on the $4k award the Court awarded fees in the total of $800.00 using the local rule fee schedule.

While at first blush a reduction of fees from $20k to $800.00 might seem like a real win for the defaulted defendant, the award of any fees is actually infinitely higher than the proper fee recovery here, which is zero. The Court in Wang does not explain why or how the Plaintiff was entitled to fees in the first place. The issue will likely remain a mystery, however, since the defaulted Defendant is unlikely to materialize and contest the $800.00 issue.

So it goes.


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