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McFeeley v. Jackson Street Entertainment, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 15, 2016



          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, United States District Judge.

         Presently pending and ready for resolution in this Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) case is an unopposed motion for attorney’s fees and costs filed by Plaintiffs. (ECF No. 136). The court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs’ motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         Additional background can be found in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit’s opinion affirming judgment for Plaintiffs. See McFeeley v. Jackson Street Entm’t, LLC, --F.3d--, 2016 WL 3191896 (4th Cir. June 8, 2016). Plaintiff Laura McFeeley initiated this collective action under the FLSA and the Maryland Wage and Hour Law (“MWHL”) by filing a complaint on April 3, 2012, which was amended to add a second named plaintiff. (ECF Nos. 1; 3). Defendants Jackson Street Entertainment, LLC; Risque, LLC; Quantum Entertainment Group, LLC; Nico Enterprises, Inc.; XTC Entertainment Group, LLC; and Uwa Offiah (collectively, the “Defendants”) answered the amended complaint and asserted counterclaims. (ECF No. 4). The court granted in part and denied in part Plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss the counterclaims. (ECF Nos. 12; 13). On May 6, 2013, Plaintiffs amended their complaint for a second time to add individuals who had opted-in to the certified class. (ECF No. 31). After the court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment (ECF Nos. 56; 57), the remaining issues went to trial in February 2015. Following a three-day jury trial, the jury returned verdicts as to the amount of compensatory damages to which each plaintiff is entitled. (See ECF No. 87). On February 10, 2015 the court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiffs and against Defendants; jointly and severally for a total amount of $265, 276.50, which included compensatory and liquidated damages. (ECF No. 93).

         On May 19, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a motion to recover attorney’s fees and costs. (ECF No. 101). After the Defendants filed an appeal with the Fourth Circuit, this court stayed the action and deferred ruling on Plaintiffs’ motion until after the adjudication of the appeal. (ECF No. 123). On April 13, 2016, the undersigned granted in part and denied in part a motion to compel, for contempt, and for sanctions filed by Plaintiffs and awarded Plaintiffs $1, 800.00 in attorney’s fees for work related to the motion. (ECF No. 134). On June 8, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. (ECF No. 135). On June 21, Plaintiffs filed the pending motion for attorney’s fees and costs, which requests $170, 970.00 in attorney’s fees and $6, 903.96 in costs. (ECF No. 136). Defendants have not responded and the time to do so has passed. On July 8, the Fourth Circuit denied Defendants’ petition for a rehearing en banc, and the mandate was issued July 18. (ECF Nos. 138; 139).

         II. Standard of Review

         In any action under the FLSA, “[t]he 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.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). The payment of attorney’s fees and costs to employees who prevail on FLSA claims is mandatory. “The amount of the attorney’s fees, however, is within the sound discretion of the trial court.” Burnley v. Short, 730 F.2d 136, 141 (4th Cir. 1984). The MWHL also allows for the recovery of attorney’s fees and costs. See Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-427.

         “The proper calculation of an attorney’s fee award involves a three-step process. First, the court must ‘determine the lodestar figure by multiplying the number of reasonable hours expended times a reasonable rate.’” McAfee v. Boczar, 738 F.3d 81, 88 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Robinson v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, 560 F.3d 235, 243 (4th Cir. 2009)). In assessing reasonableness, the Fourth Circuit has instructed district courts to consider what are known as the Johnson factors, which are: (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 suit arose; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship between attorney and client; and (12) attorneys’ fees awards in similar cases. Id. at 88 n.5 (citing Barber v. Kimbrell’s Inc., 577 F.2d 216, 226 n.28 (4th Cir. 1978)). “Next, the court must ‘subtract fees for hours spent on unsuccessful claims unrelated to successful ones.’ Finally, the court should award ‘some percentage of the remaining amount, depending on the degree of success enjoyed by the plaintiff.’” Id. (quoting Robinson, 560 F.3d at 244). The Fourth Circuit has noted that a district court’s determination of attorney’s fees should stand unless the district court abused its discretion by reaching a decision that is “‘clearly wrong’ or committing an ‘error of law.’” Id. at 88 (quoting Brodziak v. Runyon, 145 F.3d 194, 196 (4th Cir. 1998)).

         III. Analysis

         A. Lodestar Calculation

         1. Hourly Rate

         “[T]he burden rests with the fee applicant to establish the reasonableness of a requested rate.” Robinson, 560 F.3d at 244 (quoting Plyler v. Evatt, 902 F.2d 273, 277 (4th Cir. 1990)). “In 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, ” including, for example, “affidavits of other local lawyers who are familiar both with the skills of the fee applicants and more generally with the type of work in the relevant community.” Id. at 244, 245 (internal quotation marks omitted). The Local Rules provide non-binding guidelines regarding reasonable hourly rates that vary depending on how long an attorney has been admitted to the bar. Local Rules, App’x B.[1]

         Plaintiffs request the following rates for attorneys who worked on this case:

• Gregg Greenberg (5-9 years admitted to the bar during the course of this ...

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