United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
DIANA C. BERRIOS, Plaintiff,
GREEN WIRELESS, LLC, et al. Defendants.
J. Hazel United States District Judge
pending before the Court is Diana C. Berrios'
("Plaintiff") Motion for Attorneys' Fees. ECF
No. 31, arising out of her successful lawsuit against Michael
Shin ("Defendant") for violations of the Fair Labor
Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et
seq., the Maryland Wage and Hour Law
(“MWHL"). Md. Code. Lab. & Empl. § 3-401
et seq., and the Maryland Wage Payment and
Collection Law ("MWPCL"). Md. Code. Lab. &
Empl. Article § 3-501 et seq. No hearing is
necessary. Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following
reasons. Plaintiff's Motion for Attorneys' Fees is
granted, in part.
case began as a lawsuit against Plaintiff's former
employers Green Wireless. LLC. Michael Shin, and Michael Pak.
for unpaid overtime wages. ECF No. 1. After serving all three
defendants and hearing no response. Plaintiff filed Motions
for Clerk's Entry of Default. ECF Nos. 6 & 15.
Default was entered against Green Wireless on March 30. 2015,
and against Messrs. Shin and Pak on September 1, 2015. ECF
Nos. 8 & 16. Plaintiff then moved for default judgment
against all three Defendants on October 22, 2015. ECF No. 18.
While this motion was pending. Mr. Shin made an offer to
Plaintiff that judgment be entered against him in the amount
of $3, 000. exclusive of attorneys' fees and costs.
Plaintiff notified the Court of her acceptance of that offer
on December 15, 2015. and the Court approved the consent
judgment on April 18. 2016. ECF No. 29. Plaintiffs Default
Judgment as to the remaining Defendants was denied without
presently pending motion. Plaintiff requests $15, 036.50 in
attorneys" fees and expenses, based on 53.8 hours of
work completed by two attorneys and several paralegals from
the law firm of Zipin, Amster & Greenberg, LLC, and
$795.00 in litigation related costs. ECF No. 31-3. Defendant
submitted a Response to Plaintiffs Motion on May 19. 2016.
arguing that the Court should deny Plaintiffs request for
attorney's fees in full, or in the alternative, reduce
the award to reflect a reasonable rate of fees and costs. ECF
No. 32. Plaintiff Filed a Reply in support of their Motion on
May 31. 2016. and noted that the total compensable hours had
risen to 58.6 for a total of $15.657.50 in attorney's
fees. ECF No. 33.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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. Eckerhart; 461 U.S.
424. 433 (1983). A plaintiff is a "prevailing
party" for the purpose of attorney's fees if the
plaintiff succeeds "on any significant issue in
litigation which achieves some of the benefit the parties
sought in bringing suit." Id. Plaintiff here
obtained payment following a Rule 68 Offer of Judgment, which
was affirmed by this Court, and is therefore a
"prevailing party" entitled to attorney's fees.
This contention is not disputed by the parties.
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 rate." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S.
424. 433 (1983); See also Rum Creek Coal Sales. Inc. v.
Caperlon, 31 F.3d 169. 174 (4th Cir. 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."
Caperlon, 31 F.3d. 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 full 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
(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 and length of the professional relationship between
the attorney and the client; and (12) Attorney's fee
awards in similar cases.
See Caperton, 31 F.3d at 175. These factors,
however, "usually are subsumed within the initial
calculation of hours reasonably expended at a reasonable
hourly rate [. i.e., the lodestar]."
Randle v. H & P Capiial. Inc., 513
F.App'x 282. 283-84 (4th Cir. 2013)(quoting Hensley
v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424. 434 n. 9). Furthermore,
"[i]n considering the Johnson/Barber factors, the court
is to consider ail twelve factors, but need not robotically
list each factor or comment on those factors that do not
apply." Dodeka, L.L.C. v. AmrolDavis, No.
7:10-CV-1 7-D. 2010 WL 3239117. at *2 (F.D. N.C. Aug.
determining whether counsel's hourly rates are
reasonable, the court must consider whether "the
requested rates are in line with those prevailing in the
community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably
comparable skill, experience, and reputation." Blum
v. Stenson,465 U.S. 886. 890 n.l 1 (1984).
"[D]etermination of the hourly rate will generally be
the critical inquiry in setting the reasonable fee. and the
burden rests with the fee applicant to establish the
reasonableness of a requested rate." Plyler v.
Exalt,902 F.2d 273, 277 (4th Cir. 1990)(citation
omitted). As part of its inquiry, the court may rely on
"affidavits from other attorneys attesting to the
reasonableness of the hourly rates."" and also the
court's "knowledge of the market." Beyond
Sys., Inc. v. World Ave. USA, LLC, No. PJM-08-921. 2011
WL 3419565 at *3 (D. Md. Aug. 11. 2011). In this District,
the Court's "market ...