MEDICAL RECOVERY SERVICES, LLC, an Idaho limited liability company, Plaintiff-Appellant,
MARY LOU MERRITT, Defendant-Respondent.
Opinion No. 23
from the District Court of the Sixth Judicial District, State
of Idaho, Caribou County. Hon. Mitchell W. Brown, District
Judge. Hon. David R. Kress, Magistrate.
denying request for post-judgment attorney fees and costs,
affirmed; judgment denying request for attorney fees
and costs on appeal, affirmed; request for fees and
costs on instant appeal, denied; case
Driscoll & Associates, PLLC; Bryan N. Zollinger, Idaho
Falls, for appellant.
Lou Merritt, Soda Springs, pro se respondent. Respondent did
not participate on appeal.
GRATTON, Chief Judge
Recovery Services, LLC (MRS) appeals from the district
court's judgment denying its request for post-judgment
attorney fees and costs and further denying its request for
post-judgment attorney fees and costs on appeal. We affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
August 15, 2013, MRS filed a complaint to collect on a debt
owed by Mary Lou Merritt. MRS alleged that Merritt owed
approximately $680.22, which included attorney fees in the
amount of $350.00. Merritt failed to respond, and MRS filed
an application for entry of default. On December 11, 2013,
the magistrate entered a default judgment, which specified
that Merritt owed MRS $651.22, plus interest and costs.
Subsequently, the magistrate entered a writ of execution and
order for continuing garnishment.
Caribou County Sheriff served the writ of execution on
Merritt's employer. However, it was returned unsatisfied
on July 23, 2014, having garnished $131.57, which was applied
to the judgment. On August 14, 2014, the magistrate issued an
order of examination after MRS filed an application
requesting the examination. On September 2, 2014, counsel for
MRS met with Merritt and agreed upon a payment plan.
Thereafter, Merritt made voluntary payments on September 22,
2014, October 3, 2014, October 24, 2014, November 17, 2014,
and December 1, 2014. MRS subsequently filed its second
application for order of continuing garnishment, and on
January 21, 2015, the magistrate entered a writ of execution
and order for continuing garnishment. However, Merritt began
making voluntary payments again on January 26, 2015, February
26, 2015, and two payments on April 1, 2015. MRS filed a
third application for order of continuing garnishment, and on
July 13, 2015, the magistrate entered a writ of execution and
order for continuing garnishment. Merritt paid off the
remaining balance on August 28, 2015.
September 8, 2015, MRS filed an application for an award of
supplemental attorney fees and costs in the amount of $1,
323.74. The basis for the application was that MRS continued
to incur attorney fees while attempting to collect on the
default judgment. The magistrate denied the request. The
magistrate's order consisted of a one sentence decision
that provided "based on the defendants [sic] payment
record [on] the original debt owed, Court denied application
for supplemental fees." MRS appealed. The district
court, acting in its appellate capacity, remanded the case to
the magistrate court with instructions to make specific
findings of fact on the issue of attorney fees. Thereafter,
on August 18, 2016, the magistrate issued its findings of
fact and again denied MRS's request for post-judgment
attorney fees and costs. MRS filed a motion for
reconsideration, which the magistrate denied.
again appealed to the district court. On March 7, 2017, the
district court affirmed in part and reversed in part the
magistrate's order. The district court essentially ruled
that the magistrate committed error in not awarding any
attorney fees to MRS with respect to its post-judgment
collection efforts. The district court concluded that, based
upon Idaho Code § 12-120(5), reasonable attorney fees
should be awarded. However, the district court declined to
award MRS attorney fees after September 2, 2014, when MRS had
met with Merritt for the debtor's examination.
Thereafter, MRS filed a second application for an award of
supplemental attorney fees and costs on appeal in the amount
of $3, 343.90. On May 10, 2017, the district court issued a
second memorandum decision and order denying MRS's
request for attorney fees and costs on appeal. MRS timely
appeal, MRS asserts that the district court erred when it
determined that MRS was not entitled to supplemental attorney
fees for post-judgment collection efforts after September 2,
2014. MRS further asserts that, as the prevailing party, MRS
is entitled to an award of costs and attorney fees on appeal
under Idaho Code § 12-120(1), (3), and (5) and Idaho
Appellate Rules 40 and 41.
I.C. § 12-120 authorizes attorney fees in certain types
of cases, I.R.C.P. 54(e)(4) limits an award of fees in cases
involving default judgments. Rule 54(e)(4)(B) provides:
"An award of attorney fees under Idaho Code section
12-120 in default judgments where the defendant has not
appeared must not exceed the amount of the judgment for the
claim, exclusive of costs." The original complaint
against Merritt was to recover on a debt Merritt incurred in
the amount of $216.96. The complaint also alleged entitlement
to $17.26 in prejudgment interest, and requested attorney
fees pursuant to I.C. § 12-120(1), and (3). With respect
to attorney fees, MRS asserted it was entitled to recover
fees "in the sum of $350.00 if judgment is taken by
default and such greater amounts as may be evidenced to the
court if this claim is contested." MRS also requested
costs pursuant to I.R.C.P. 54(d)(1) in the amount of $96.00
for its filing fee. The total requested judgment was $680.22.
the filing of the complaint and MRS's application for
default, Merritt paid $109.00 toward the original debt,
reducing the amount owed on the claim to $107.96, plus $17.26
in prejudgment interest. MRS's application for default
after the $109.00 payment requested the balance due on the
debt plus $17.26 in interest, $350.00 in attorney fees, the
$96.00 filing fee, and an additional service fee of $80.00.
Pursuant to I.R.C.P. 54(e)(4)(B), MRS was not entitled to
attorney fees beyond the amount of the judgment for the
claim, i.e., beyond the balance of the debt due and the
interest, which totaled $125.22. Nevertheless, the default
judgment MRS requested, which the magistrate granted,
included an attorney fee award of $350.00, more than twice
the amount of the judgment for the claim.
Post-judgment Attorney Fees Incurred after September 2,
1.District court's decision was not