Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Morataya v. Nancy's Kitchen of Silver Spring, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 8, 2016

JESSICA MELGAR MORATAYA, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY'S KITCHEN OF SILVER SPRING, INC. et at.. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently pending before the Court is Plaintiffs Motion for Attorney's Fees, ECF No. 80, and Plaintiffs Motion to Withdraw Memorandum in Support of Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs and Substitute a New Corrected Memorandum ('"Motion to Withdraw and Substitute"). ECF No. 89. No hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.). Because Plaintiff has submitted her substitute Memorandum within thirty-five days from the date the Motion for Attorney's Fees was filed, see Local Rule 109.2(a), the Court will grant the Motion to Withdraw and Substitute, ECF No. 89. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs Motion for Attorney's Fees, based upon the new corrected Memorandum, is granted in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual and Procedural History

         This case arises out of a dispute between Plaintiff Jessica Marlene Melgar Morataya ("Plaintiff" or "'Morataya") and Defendants Nancy's Kitchen of Silver Spring, Inc. ("Nancy's Kitchen") and Roy G. Barreto (collectively, "Defendants") under the Fair Labor Standards Act C'FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., the Maryland Wage and Hour Law, Md. Code. Lab. & Empl. § 3-401 et seq., and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, Md. Code. Lab. & Empl. § 3-501 et seq. Following a two-day bench trial on October 26 and 27. 2015, the Court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff and awarded damages in the amount of $66, 571.18 in a Memorandum Opinion dated May 20, 2016. ECF No. 78. Pursuant to Local Rule 109.2(a), Plaintiff timely moved for an award of attorney's fees and costs on June 3, 2016. ECF No. 80. Defendants submitted a Motion in Opposition on June 17, 2016. ECF No. 88. On June 30, 2016, Plaintiffs counsel submitted a Motion to Withdraw and Substitute a New Corrected Memorandum due to errors in their initial attorney's fees spreadsheet. ECF No. 89. Defendants did not consent to this Motion and filed an Opposition to Plaintiffs Motion to Withdraw and Substitute. ECF No. 93. Plaintiff filed a Reply in Support of her Motion to Withdraw on July 27. 2016. ECF No. 94.

         In her initial motion, ECF No. 80, Plaintiff requested $107, 871.30 in attorney's fees and $7, 040.45 in costs. In the substituted motion, ECF No. 89-1 at 20, [1] Plaintiff requested $121, 239.80 in attorney's fees, based upon the corrected spreadsheet, and $7, 040.45 in costs. Plaintiff also submitted a Supplemental Motion requesting an additional $6, 528.00 for the 21.1 hours spent on this case since filing the original Motion for Attorney's Fees. ECF No. 92. In her Reply in Support, Plaintiff conceded two deductions totaling $265.00. ECF No. 94 at 9. Therefore, Plaintiff is now requesting $127, 502.80 in fees and $7, 040.45 in costs, for a total amount of $134, 543.25.

         B. Plaintiffs Motion to Withdraw and Substitute

         In Plaintiffs Motion to Withdraw and Substitute, counsel states that the first Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs, ECF No. 80 was "based on a flawed fees spreadsheet." ECF No. 89-1 at 1. Counsel explains:

To prepare the spreadsheet that became Exhibit A of the Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs, ECF No. 80-3, a law clerk downloaded the electronically recorded billing data onto an Excel spreadsheet. ([Porter Decl., ECF No. 89-3] ¶ 5(a).)... To conform to the requirements of Appendix B of the Local Rules, the entries were sorted into separate categories. (Id. ¶ 5(b).) In doing so, the Columns A, B, and C for each entry were always moved together; however, Column D, containing the amount of time taken to do each task, was not always moved along with the rest of the columns in the entry. (Id.) The resulting document thus accurately describes each task performed, the person who performed each task, and the date he or she performed it. (Id. ¶ 5(c).) But, for the vast majority of the entries, Column D, which states the hours worked, did not correctly match the tasks performed, as reflected in the specific time entries. (Id.)

ECF No. 89-1 at 4. In support of the Motion to Withdraw and Substitute, Plaintiff also submits a sworn declaration of Robert Porter, an associate attorney and timekeeper at Melehy & Associates LLC. counsel for Plaintiffs. Porter Decl., ECF No. 89-3. Mr. Porter avers that he "thoroughly investigated] the matter" and understood the aforementioned explanation to be the reason for the errors in the first spreadsheet. Id. at 2.

         In opposition to Plaintiffs Motion to Withdraw and Substitute, Defendants assert that Plaintiffs counsel has submitted "false, misleading and untruthful representations regarding his time records and the activities supported by the time records, " and that such action constitutes a Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 11(b) violation warranting sanctions and denial of attorney's fees. ECF No. 93 at 3. Defendants claim that "Plaintiff offers no sensible reason as to why the second set of time records should be accepted by this court." Id. at 4.

         Rule 11 sanctions are not appropriate here. Rule 11(b) provides that "[b]y presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper-whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it-an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances . . . the factual contentions have evidentiary support. .." Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b). Notwithstanding that a motion for sanctions must be made separately from any other motion and served on the opposing party 21 days before filing it with the court, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(2) (describing what is known as the "safe harbor" provision), the Court acknowledges that Plaintiffs counsel "has admitted to. apologized for. explained the cause of. and corrected [the] errors [in the initial faulty spreadsheet].*' ECF No. 94 at 2. Plaintiffs took affirmative steps to correct the errors with the Court, and did not seek to recover fees for the time spent drafting either the Motion to Withdraw and Substitute or Reply in Support. ECF No. 89-1 at 2; ECF No. 94 at 1. Based on a review of the applicable time sheets, the Court accepts that "Plaintiffs counsel has maintained adequate records; the errors were in the spreadsheet counsel created, not the underlying contemporaneous billing records." ECF No. 94 at 4. Thus, the Court will not issue sanctions or deduct attorney's fees for this oversight, and will accept Plaintiffs request to withdraw ECF No. 80 and review Plaintiffs New Corrected Memorandum. ECF No. 89.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The payment of attorney's fees and costs to employees who prevail on FLSA claims is mandatory, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), while the amount awarded is within the sound discretion of the trial court. Burnley v. Short, 730 F.2d 136, 141 (4th Cir. 1984). To recover attorney's fees and costs, a plaintiff must be a "prevailing party, " a threshold question for which the Court accords a generous formulation. Hensley v. Eckerhari, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). This Court entered judgment in favor of Ms. Morataya at trial: therefore, she is a "prevailing party" entitled to attorney's fees.

         The Court must now determine what fee is "reasonable." Hensley. 461 U.S. at The most useful starting point for establishing the proper amount of an award is the "lodestar." or "the number of hours reasonably expended, multiplied by a reasonable hourly vale." Id: .see also Rum Creek Coal Sales. Inc. v. Caperton, 31 F.3d 169. 174 (4thCir. 1994). The court must adjust the number of hours to delete duplicative or unrelated hours, and the number of hours must be reasonable and represent the product of "billing judgment." Id. at 175 (citing Hensley. 461 U.S. at 437). "When the plaintiff prevails on only some of the claims, the number of hours may be adjusted downward; but where lull relief is obtained, the plaintiffs attorney should receive a fully compensatory fee and in cases of exceptional success, even an enhancement." Id. at 174-75 (internal citations omitted). In assessing the overall reasonableness of the lodestar, the court may also consider the twelve factors set forth in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express. Inc.. 488 F.2d 714. 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974) ("the Johnson factors"). specifically:

(1) The time and labor required; (2) The novelty and difficulty of the questions raised: (3) The skill requisite to perform the legal services properly: (4) The preclusion of 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 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.