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Jackson v. Egira, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 5, 2016

SEAN JACKSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
EGIRA, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         Currently pending is Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (ECF No. 142).[1] The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' Motion (ECF No. 142) is GRANTED in the amount of $232, 340 in attorneys fees and $8, 381.05 in costs and expenses, for a total award of $240, 721.05.[2]

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Sean Jackson (“S. Jackson”), Craig Koehler, Jr. (“Koehler”), Russell Jackson (“R. Jackson”), Dawn Dorsey (“Dorsey”), Emily Wisniewski (“Wisniewski”), Jeremy Hewitt (“Hewitt”), and Casey Ann Diven (“Diven”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) brought this action against Defendants Egira, LLC (“Egira”), Anastasia Vasilakopoulos (“Mrs. Vasilakopoulos”), Vasilios “Bill” Vasilakopoulos (“Bill”), and Konstantinos “Gus” Vasilakopoulos (“Gus”) (collectively, “Defendants”) alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq., the Maryland Wage and Hour Law (“MWHL”), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§ 3-401, et seq., and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (“MWPCL”), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§ 3-501, et seq. Plaintiffs, all former servers at the Speakeasy Saloon and Dining House (“Speakeasy”), a restaurant owned and operated by Defendant Egira, claimed that they were denied minimum wages and/or overtime compensation in violation of federal and state law. Following a four-day jury trial in this Court, a jury awarded the Plaintiffs three times the unpaid minimum wage under the MWPCL and unpaid overtime under the FLSA[3].

         Since this action was initiated over two years ago, the Defendants have consistently impeaded Plaintiffs' prosecution of this case. Defendants initially failed to answer the collective action Complaint, did not initially respond to this Court's Order that they identify servers who had worked at Speakeasy, and only complied with that Order after Plaintiffs' counsel filed a Motion requiring them to show cause as to why they should not be held in contempt. Even then, Defendants failed to disclose all employees, including some of the Plaintiffs in this action. The Defendants then proceeded to raise unfounded “jurisdictional” defenses by misrepresenting the size and scope of their operations and obstructed discovery efforts. Furthermore, the Defendants delayed admitting important issues, such as Speakeasy's status as an enterprise covered by the FLSA and the indidivual liability of Gus and Anastasia Vasilakopoulos as FLSA employers. Ultimately, the original counsel for the Defendants filed a Motion to Withdraw (ECF No. 57) in light of difficulties in procuring the Defendants' cooperation. This Court denied that Motion (ECF No. 89) and required prior defense counsel to remain in this case until present counsel entered their appearance in May of 2016. These actions by Defendants forced Plaintiffs to expend significant time, energy, and unnecessary expense.

         During the pendency of this litigation, Plaintiffs relied on the legal services of two attorneys, Bradford W. Warbasse and Howard B. Hoffman. The Plaintiffs now seek compensation for the time that these lawyers spent prosecuting this case and costs incurred. Mot., p. 5, ECF No. 142. In addition, the Plaintiffs have filed a Supplemental Request for Attorneys' Fees (ECF No. 146), with respect to additional time and expense incurred in preparation of a Reply to Defendants' Opposition to the pending Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (ECF No. 142).

         ANALYSIS

         In an action brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq., “[t]he court in such action 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). While the payment of attorney's fees and costs to the plaintiff is mandatory, “[t]he amount of the attorney's fees . . . is within the sound discretion of the trial court.” Burnley v. Short, 730 F.2d 136, 141 (4th Cir. 1984).

         The calculation of a reasonable fee award, or lodestar award, is reached by multiplying the reasonable hours expended by a reasonable hourly rate. In assessing the reasonableness of the hours and rate claimed, the court considers the following twelve factors, known as the Johnson factors:

(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.

Spell v. McDaniel, 824 F.2d 1380, 1402 n.18 (4th Cir. 1987) (citing Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir.1974)); Rum Creek Coal Sales, Inc. v. Caperton, 31 F.3d 169, 174 (4th Cir. 1994).

         A. Attorneys' Fees

         The Plaintiffs seek attorneys' fees in the amount of $241, 973.75. Mot., p. 8, ECF No. 142. This represents 204.7 hours billed at a rate of $425 per hour as to Mr. Warbasse, for a total of $86, 997.50, and 364.65 hours billed at a rate of $425 per hour for Mr. Hoffman, for a total of $154, 976.25. The Plaintifs have since supplemented that request, seeking an additional 1.5 hours for Mr. Warbasse at a rate of $425 per hour and 21.8 hours for Mr. Hoffman at a rate of $425 per hour. See Supp. Request, ECF No. 146.

         As discussed infra, a weighing of the Johnson factors suggests that the hours requested by Plaintiffs in their initial petition are reasonable under the circumstances of this case. However, this Court will only allow 1.5 hours of supplemental compensation for Mr. Warbasse and 10.0 hours for Mr. Hoffman with respect to the additional time spent in preparation of Plaintiffs' Reply brief. Furthermore, this Court finds ...


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