United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
FATNESS B. LIPENGA, Plaintiff,
JANE N. KAMBALAME, Defendant.
J. HAZEL United States District Judge
Fainess Lipenga brought this action against Defendant Jane
Kambalame for alleged violations of the Trafficking Victims
Protection Reauthorization Act ("TVPRA"). 18 U.S.C.
$§ 1581 et sec/., the Fair Labor Standards Act
("FLSA"). 29 U.S.C. § 206(0(1). the Maryland
Wage and Hour Law ("MWHL"), Md. Code, Lab &
Empl. §§ 3-413. 3-415. and other common law causes
of action. The Court entered default judgment against
Defendant Kambalame on November 9. 2016 and awarded Plaintiff
$1, 101, 345.20 in compensatory and punitive damages. Now
pending before the Court is Plaintiffs Motion for
Attorneys" Fees. ECF No. 26. No hearing is necessary.
Loc. R. 1 05.6 (D. Md. July 1. 2016). For the following
reasons. Plaintiffs Motion for Attorneys' Fees, in the
amount of $122, 327.50, is granted.
filed her initial complaint against Defendant on December 19,
2014. ECF No. 1. After Defendant failed to answer or
otherwise defend in the matter. Ms. Lipenga moved for an
entry of default on January 28. 2016. which the Clerk entered
on March 4. 2016. ECF No. 20: ECF No. 21. The Court issued
its Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Plaintiffs Motion
for Default Judgment. ECF No. 23. on November 9. 2016. HCF
No. 24. As Plaintiff had requested "reasonable
attorneys' fees" in her Motion. ECF No. 23-1 at 38.
but had not submitted documentation as to the appropriate
amount, the Court requested supplemental briefing On the
issue. See ECF No. 25.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Lipenga is entitled to attorneys' fees under the the
TVPRA, FLSA. and MWIIL. See 18 U.S.C. § 1595
("An individual who is a victim of a violation of this
chapter may bring a civil action against the perpetrator. ..
and may recover damages and reasonable attorneys'
fees"): 29 U.S.C. § 216(b): Burnley v.
Short. 730 F.2d 136. 141 (4th Cir. 1984) ("The
payment of attorney's fees to employees prevailing in
FLSA cases is mandatory"): Md. Code. Lab. & Empl. $
3-427(d)(1)(iii). To recover attorneys" fees and costs,
a plaintiff must be a "prevailing party." a
threshold question for which the Court accords a generous
formulation. See Hensley v. Eckerhart. 461 U.S. 424.
433 (1983). This Court entered default judgment against
Defendant Kambalame in this matter: therefore, Ms. Lipenga is
a "prevailing party" entitled to reasonable
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, 461 U.S. at 433: see
also Rum Creek Coal Sales, Ine. v. Caperton. 31 F.3d
169. 174 (4th Cir. 1994). The court shall 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." Rum Creek Coal
Sales. 31 F.3d at 175 (citing Hensley. 461 U.S.
at 437). 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. 71 7-19 (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 Rum Creek Coal Sales. 31 F.3d at 1 75.
party seeking an award of attorney's fees "bears the
burden of establishing entitlement to an award and
documenting the appropriate hours expended and hourly
rates." Hensley. 461 U.S. at 437. The party
challenging the requested award "bears the burden of
explaining its objections with sufficient detail and specific
reference to the plaintiff's time records to allow the
court to evaluate those challenges without itself po|r|ing
over the time records searching for unnecessary
charges." Nelson v. A&li Motors. Inc..
Civil No. .IKS 12- 2288. 2013 WL 388991. at *3 (D. Md. Jan.
30. 2013) (citing Rode v. Dellarciprete. 892 F.2d
1177. 1183 (3d Cir. 1990)). Here. Plaintiff submits her
Motion and supporting documentation. but Defendant has not
to Plaintiffs Memorandum and documentation accompanying the
Motion for Attorneys' Fees. 10 attorneys and 5 assisting
staff members completed 498.00 hours of work on this case
over a two-and-a-half year period. RCF No. 29 at 5. Plaintiff
has provided detailed information breaking these hours down
by individual, litigation phase, date and time, and narrative
description- in accordance with Loc. R. 109.2 and Appendix B
of the Local Rules. Upon review of the billing records,
attached at ECF No. 29-1 at 1-32. the Court finds that the
hours expended were reasonable. Although the case was
ultimately uncontested, the Complaint was detailed and
involved challenging issues of fact and law. The hours spent
preparing and litigating the Lipenga case were all
related to a common legal theory and set of facts, and
Plaintiff ultimately achieved a high degree of success on her
claims against Defendant Kambalame. See Hensley, 461
U.S. at 435 (noting that "[w]here a plaintiff has
obtained excellent results, [her] attorney should recover a
fully compensatory fee. Normally this will encompass all
hours reasonably expended on the litigation.'').
also requests reasonable rates for fourteen of the fifteen
individuals who worked on this matter. See Blum v.
Stenson. 465 U.S. 886. 890 n. l1 (1984) (noting that fee
applicant should demonstrate that the requested rates are in
line with those lawyers prevailing in the community):
Beyond Sys.. Inc. v. World Ave. USA. LLC. No.
PJM-08-921. 2011 WL. 3419565 at *3 (D. Md. Aug. 11. 2011)
(noting that courts in this jurisdiction rely upon Appendix B
for determining reasonableness of fees). In accordance with
Appendix B,  which provides this jurisdiction's
guidelines regarding hourly rates, based upon length of
experience. Plaintiff reasonably requests $425 for Melissa
Gorsline; $300 for James Egerton-Vernon and Anastasiya Ugale;
$225 for Kelsey Bryan. Christopher Fdelman. Lindsay
Reimschussel. Jordan Von Bokern. and 11. Kristie Xian: $1 50
for Cecilia Mullan and Samantha Tejada; and $95 for Tendai
Mukau. Jenai Orina. Tom Poison, and Sarah
Subaey. However, because Partner Charles Kotuby
had between 12-14 years of experience during the litigation
period, his reasonable rate is at most $350 pursuant to
Appendix B(3)(c) of the Local Rules.
although Plaintiff requests an hourly rate of $425 for both
Ms. Gorsline and Mr. Kotuby in her Memorandum. ECF No. 29 at
13-14. the Fee Calculations attached at ECF No. 29-1 at 27-32
apply an hourly rate of $475 for Ms. Gorsline and Mr. Kotuby.
Therefore, applying the proper rate of $425 for Ms. Gorsline