United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
Charles B. Day United States Magistrate Judge.
this Court is the parties Supplement to Joint Motion for
Approval of Settlement (the "Supplemental
Memorandum") (ECF No. 19). The Court has reviewed the
Supplemental Memorandum, related memoranda, and applicable
law. No hearing is deemed necessary. See Local Rule
105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons presented below, the Court
approves the Settlement Agreement the parties executed as to
all claims, including Plaintiffs' claim under the Fair
Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201.
18, 2016, the parties participated in a settlement conference
before this Court. ECF No. 16, 6. On June 13, 2016, the
parties reached a resolution and executed the Settlement
Agreement. ECF No. 16-2. On June 14, 2016, the parties filed
a Joint Motion seeking approval of the Settlement Agreement.
ECF No. 16, 11. Under the Settlement Agreement, Plaintiffs
agree to settle all claims and dismiss this case with
prejudice in exchange for a payment of $20, 477.20, which is
allocated as follows: (1) $3, 250.00 to Plaintiff Juan Carlos
Mena Gaitan as a payment for alleged wages due; (2) $3,
250.00 to Plaintiff Juan Carlos Mena Gaitan as a payment for
alleged liquidated damages; (3) $3, 250.00 to Plaintiff Jorge
L. Garcia Castillo as a payment for alleged wages due; (4)
$3, 250.00 to Plaintiff Jorge L. Garcia Castillo as a payment
for alleged liquidated damages; and (5) $7, 472.20 to
"Stein Sperling Bennett De Jong Driscoll PC" to
account for $7, 000.00 in attorney's fees and $472.20 in
costs. ECF No. 16-2, 2-3. On July 7, 2016, the Court issued a
Memorandum Opinion (the "Previous Opinion") and
Order denying the Joint Motion without prejudice. ECF Nos. 17
and 18. The Court reasoned that Plaintiff's counsel
failed to provide sufficient information as to one of the
factors the Court must consider: the reasonableness of the
attorney's fees requested. ECF No. 17, 7-8. The Court
then allowed counsel to file any supplemental documentation
within fourteen (14) days of the entry of the Previous
Opinion and Order. On July 8, 2016, Plaintiff submitted the
Supplemental Memorandum addressing the reasonableness of the
attorney's fees requested. In this Memorandum Opinion,
the Court will only address this issue since the other
factors were analyzed in the Previous Opinion.
discussed in the Previous Opinion, when deciding motions for
approval of FLSA settlements, district courts in this circuit
typically follow the Eleventh Circuit's analysis in
Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679
F.2d 1350, 1354 (11th Cir. 1982). Saman v. LBDP,
Inc., No. DKC-12-1083, 2013 WL 2949047, at *3 (D. Md.
June 13, 2013). The settlement must "reflect a fair
and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute
over FLSA provisions." Id. (citations omitted).
In this respect, the Court considers (1) whether there are
FLSA issues actually in dispute, (2) the fairness and
reasonableness of the settlement in light of the relevant
factors from Rule 23, and (3) the reasonableness of the
attorney's fees, if included in the agreement.
Riveros v. WWK Construction, Inc., No. PJM 15-193,
2015 WL 5897749, at *2 (D. Md. Oct. 5, 2015) (citations
Bona Fide Dispute
Previous Opinion, the Court found that a bona fide
dispute exists in this case. See ECF No. 17, 3-4.
Fairness and Reasonableness of the Settlement Agreement
Previous Opinion, the Court found that the Settlement
Agreement was fair and reasonable. See ECF No. 17,
Attorney's Fees and Costs
a proposed settlement of FLSA claims includes a provision
regarding attorney's fees, the reasonableness of the
award must also ‘be independently assessed, regardless
of whether there is any suggestion that a conflict of
interest taints the amount the wronged employee recovers
under a settlement agreement.'" Saman, 2013
WL 2949047, at *3 (quoting Lane v. Ko-Me, LLC, No.
10-2261, 2011 WL 3880427, at *3 (D. Md. Aug. 31, 2011)).
"In making that assessment, courts typically use the
principles of the traditional lodestar method as a
guide." Lane, 2011 WL 3880427, at *3 (citation
omitted). The lodestar amount is the reasonable hourly rate
multiplied by hours reasonably expended. See
Riveros, 2015 WL 5897749, at *4. "An hourly rate is
reasonable if it is ‘in line with those prevailing in
the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably
comparable skill, experience, and reputation.'"
Id. (citation omitted). The federal court in
Maryland uses Appendix B to the Local Rules as a reference to
the rates "that are presumptively reasonable for
lodestar calculations." Id. "Plaintiffs
should also provide all documentation necessary for the Court
to make a lodestar determination as to the hours reasonably
expended, including but not limited to declarations
establishing the hours expended by counsel, broken down for
each task." Id.
assessing reasonableness, the Fourth Circuit has instructed
district courts to also consider certain factors, including:
(1) the time and labor expended; (2) the novelty and
difficulty of the questions raised; (3) the skill required to
properly perform the legal services rendered; (4) the
attorney's opportunity costs in pressing the instant
litigation; (5) the customary fee for like work; (6) the
attorney's expectations at the outset of the litigation;
(7) the time limitations imposed by the client or
circumstances; (8) the amount in controversy and the results
obtained; (9) the experience, reputation and ability of the
attorney; (10) the undesirability of the case within the
legal community in which the ...