United States District Court, D. Maryland
DAVID COPPERTHITE United States Magistrate Judge.
has filed a petition for an award of attorneys' fees and
costs (ECF 59). Defendants have filed a response (ECF 62).
Plaintiff has filed a reply (ECF 65). This matter being fully
briefed, there is no need for a hearing. Local Rule 105.6.
was employed by Defendant as a chef. Plaintiff brought this
litigation alleging Defendants violated the Fair Labor
Standards Act (29 U.S.C. Sec. 207(a)) against Riverside Pub
& Grille and owner- Defendant Michael DiCarlo (Counts One
and Two); violations of the Maryland Wage and Hour Law,
Maryland Labor and Employment Code Ann. Sec. 3-415 by
Defendant Riverside Pub and Grille and Defendant DiCarlo
(Counts Three and Four); and, failure to pay wages in
violation of the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Act.
Labor and Employment Art. Sec. 3-505 against both Defendants
(Count Five). A jury trial was conducted on May 1, 2017 with
a verdict delivered by the jury on May 3. 2017. The jury
returned a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff as to Counts One
through Four and awarded Plaintiff $141.00 in compensatory
damages and $141.00 liquidated damages. The jury found tor
Defendants as to Count Five. This Court granted
Defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law as to
Counts One and Two (ECF 63- 64). The only counts remaining
for consideration of the fee petition are Counts Three and
Four, the violations under the Maryland Wage and Hour Law.
the Maryland Wage and Hour Law ("MWHL") the
awarding of attorneys' fees is a permitted, discretionary
act. Manor Country Club v. Flaa, 387 Md. 297-315-16
"An action under the Wage and Hour Law is to recover the
minimum amounts set by law. and the provision for counsel
fees is an important element in ensuring that the law is
obeyed. In strengthening the Payment Law in 1993. the
Legislature considered the arguments pro and con and struck
the balance of allowing a reasonable counsel fee under §
3-507.1 only in those situations where the employer acted
wilfully-in the absence of a bona fide dispute. When such a
finding is made in an action under that law or when recovery
is allowed under the Wage and Hour Law. courts should
exercise their discretion liberally in favor of awarding a
reasonable fee, unless the circumstances of the particular
case indicate some good reason why a fee award is
inappropriate in that case. See Hensley v.
Eckerhart. 461 U.S. 424. 429, 103 S.Ct. 1933. 1937, 76
L.Ed.2d 40, 48 (1983) (holding that under 42 U.S.C. §
1988. which allows the award of attorneys' fees in a
civil rights action under § 1983. "a prevailing
plaintiff 'should ordinarily recover an attorney's
fee unless special circumstances would render such an award
unjust." quoting S.Rep. No. 94-1011. p. 4 (1976))."
Friolo v. Frankel 373 Md. 501, 518 (2003).
courts have looked to the Fair Labor Standards Act and
federal caselaw to determine whether an award is appropriate,
and if so. which methodology to apply. Friolo,
supra. The difference is that the FLSA has a mandatory
provision for attorneys' fees and Maryland, for the
reasons set forth above, does not. In the present case, since
Plaintiff failed to establish jurisdiction under the FLSA as
a matter of law, the award of any attorneys' fees is
discretionary for the Court.
case was not complicated. Plaintiff testified he was never
paid overtime wages for more than a year of employment, but
worked overtime daily and never complained. The only witness
called by Plaintiff was Plaintiff himself. Plaintiff did not
call any witnesses in his case (and did not move to re-open
their case) to establish jurisdiction under the FLSA.
Defendants put on testimonial evidence of four witnesses,
including named Defendant DiCarlo. All of Defendants'
witnesses testified that Plaintiff was paid in cash.
Defendants produced records of cash payments made to
Plaintiff over the entire period of time. So, simply put -
Plaintiff said he was never paid and Defendants said he was
paid, and in cash because that was what Plaintiff demanded in
order to work there.
has filed a petition requesting fees and costs in the amount
of $111, 062.00. Defendants have responded that (1) Plaintiff
is not entitled to fees under the FLSA (2) Plaintiff was not
a prevailing party and is not entitled to any fees under the
MWHL. The Court has already agreed with Defendants as to the
first contention and further agrees as to the Defendants'
second contention and for the reasons stated herein will DLNY
the motion for fees and costs as to the remaining counts
under the MWHL.
rely upon Friolo, which was later clarified in
Flaa. to include both the MWHL as well as the MWPL,
in finding that the award of attorneys" fees is
discretionary. There is a public policy component to the
statutory scheme in that attorneys' fees should be
awarded where the owner acted willfully in the absence of a
bona fide dispute. Friolo at 518. There is a great
public interest in seeing that people who earn overtime wages
are paid fairly and paid promptly. There is the corresponding
public interest in punishing employers who willfully violate
the law in withholding wages that were earned.
general rule (American Rule) in our legal system is that each
party must pay its own attorney's fees and expenses.
Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel. Winn,559 U.S. 542, 550
(2010) citing, Hensley v.
EckerhartA6\ U.S. 424, 429 (1983) To obtain an award of
attorneys' fees, a Plaintiff must be a "prevailing
party". A Plaintiff may be considered a prevailing party
if they succeed on any significant issue in litigation which
achieves some of the benefit the parties sought in bringing
suit. Hensley at 433. citing. Nadeau v.
Hulgemore.581 F.2d 275, 278-79 (CA11978). In
Hensley. the Court recognized that there are varying
degrees of success in order to be a prevailing party and a
party may be a prevailing party even if Plaintiff does not
succeed on all claims asserted. Hensley at 432. In
the instant case, that analysis is somewhat unnecessary since
the Plaintiff did not "succeed in any significant issue
in litigation which achieves some of the benefit the parties
sought in bringing suit". Id. at 433. The only
thing that Plaintiff proved to the jury was that in paying
him cash for his overtime for greater than a year. Defendants
owed him $141.00. 1 would be remiss in not noting that the
only testimony as to the hours of overtime worked by
Plaintiff was simply his ...