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Reyes v. Clime

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 8, 2015

SELVIN ELVIR REYES, et al., Plaintiffs,
THOMAS CLIME, et al., Defendants.


PAUL W. GRIMM, District Judge.

After accepting a Rule 68 offer of judgment in this case alleging various violations of federal and state wage and hour statutes, Plaintiffs now have filed a motion for attorneys' fees and costs. Plaintiffs seek fees at their standard, hourly rates for the time spent on this matter. Defendants argue that paying Plaintiffs the full lodestar amount would be excessive because this case settled for a fraction of the damages originally sought. Because I find that the effort and success of Plaintiffs' counsel merits an award at their full, hourly rate, I grant the motion with minor modifications.

I. Background

Plaintiffs Selvin Elvir Reyes and Francisco Torrez filed this action on June 12, 2014, alleging claims arising under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 215, the Maryland Wage and Hour Law ("MWHL"), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-401 et seq., and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Act ("MWPCA"), Lab. & Empl. § 3-501 et seq. After an unsuccessful settlement conference, the parties filed a notice of the acceptance of an offer of judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 68. Notice of Acceptance of Offer of J., ECF No. 21.

Although the parties took the position that a Rule 68 offer of judgment-unlike a settlement agreement, see Duprey v. Scotts Co., LLC, No. PWG-13-3496, 2014 WL 2174751, at *5 (D. Md. May 23, 2014)-did not require court approval, see Letter from Counsel (Dec. 22, 2014), ECF No. 22, I found that Rule 68 offers were not exempt from that requirement, see Paperless Order, ECF No. 23. Following that Order, the parties filed a Joint Motion and Memorandum for Approval of Rule 68 Offer of Judgment, ECF No. 24, and a supplemental filing providing additional support for the motion, Letter from Counsel (Feb. 27, 2015), ECF No. 25. I granted the motion on March 3, 2015, Order, ECF No. 29, and that same day judgment was entered in favor of Reyes in the amount of $5, 500 and in favor of Torrez in the amount of $2, 500, exclusive of fees and costs. Order of J., ECF No. 30.

On March 16, 2015, Plaintiffs filed their Petition for Award of Attorney's Fees and Costs and Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Same ("Pls.' Fees Mot."), ECF No. 31. Defendants Thomas Clime and Thomas Clime Landscapes, LLC responded on April 1, 2015 ("Defs.' Fees Opp'n"), ECF No. 32, and Plaintiffs replied on April 8, 2015 (Pls.' Fees Reply"), ECF No. 33. Having reviewed the filings, I find a hearing is not required. Loc. R. 105.6.

II. Discussion

Title 29 United States Code § 216(b) provides that in an action brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), such as this one, the "court... shall, in addition to any judgment awarded to the plaintiff or plaintiffs, allow a reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by the defendant, and costs of the action." The MWHL and the MWPCL also provide for a prevailing plaintiff's attorneys' fees. See Lab. & Empl. § 3-427(a)(3); Lab. & Empl. § 3-507.2(b).

Because judgment has been entered in Plaintiffs' favor, there is no dispute that they are "prevailing parties" entitled to attorneys' fees. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983) ("plaintiffs may be considered prevailing parties' for attorney's fees purposes if they succeed on any significant issue in litigation which achieves some of the benefit the parties sought in bringing suit.'" (quoting Nadeau v. Helgemoe, 581 F.2d 275, 278-79 (1st Cir. 1978)).

In calculating an award of attorneys' fees, the Court first must determine the lodestar amount, defined as a "reasonable hourly rate multiplied by hours reasonably expended." Grissom v. The Mills Corp., 549 F.3d 313, 320-21 (4th Cir. 2008); see Plyler v. Evatt, 902 F.2d 273, 277 (4th Cir. 1990) (stating that "[i]n addition to the attorney's own affidavits, the fee applicant must produce satisfactory specific evidence of the prevailing market rates in the relevant community for the type of work for which he seeks an award" (internal citations omitted)). "[T]here is a strong presumption' that the lodestar figure is reasonable, but that presumption may be overcome in those rare circumstances in which the lodestar does not adequately take into account a factor that may properly be considered in determining a reasonable fee." Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel. Winn, 559 U.S. 542, 554 (2010). In determining whether the lodestar results in a reasonable fee, this Court evaluates "the twelve well-known factors articulated in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974) and adopted by the Fourth Circuit in Barber v. Kimbrell's, Inc., 577 F.2d 216, 226 (4th Cir. 1978)." Thompson, 2002 WL 31777631, at *6 (footnotes omitted). Those factors are:

(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions; (3) the skill requisite to properly perform the legal service; (4) the preclusion of other employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5) the customary fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorneys; (10) the "undesirability" of the case; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar cases.

Id. at *6 n.19 (citing Johnson, 488 F.2d at 717-19). However, the Supreme Court has noted that the subjective Johnson factors provide very little guidance and, in any event, that "the lodestar figure includes most, if not all, of the relevant factors constituting a reasonable attorney's fee.'" Perdue, 559 U.S. at 551, 553 (quoting Pennsylvania v. Del. Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 549, 566 (1986)).

In calculating the lodestar amount, the party seeking fees "must show that the number of hours for which he seeks reimbursement is reasonable and does not include hours that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary." Travis v. Prime Lending, No. 3:07cv00065, 2008 WL 2397330, at *4 (W.D. Va. June 12, 2008) (concluding, after an initial determination that the attorney's hourly rate was reasonable for the particular district, that attorney's fees requested by Plaintiff were reasonable based on documentation of hours worked and tasks completed); Flynn v. Jocanz, 480 F.Supp.2d 218, 220-21 (D.D.C. 2007) (awarding requested attorneys' fees based on affidavits and the record).

Also of import, Appendix B to this Court's Local Rules, Rules and Guidelines for Determining Attorneys' Fees in Certain Cases, provides the ...

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