United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Xinis United States District Judge
Memorandum Opinion and Order addresses Plaintiff CODY SIMPSON
(“Simpson”) and Defendant PURE TECHNOLOGIES,
U.S., INC.'s (“Pure Technologies”) Joint
Motion for Judgment. ECF No. 20. Simpson has accepted Pure
Technologies' Offer of Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule
Civil Procedure 68, and the parties request that this Court
approve and enter the judgment. For the reasons that follow,
the Court GRANTS the motion.
is a former employee of Pure Technologies. ECF No. 1 at
¶ 9. On August 31, 2017, Simpson and co-Plaintiffs
Nicholas Redding and Brian Miles (collectively
“Plaintiffs”), filed a complaint on behalf of
themselves and those similarly situated, alleging that Pure
Technologies improperly classified Plaintiffs as salaried
employees and failed to pay them overtime wages in violation
of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”),
Maryland Wage and Hour Law (“MWHL”), and the
Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law
(“MWPCL”). Id. at ¶¶ 65-68,
80, 84-85. Pure Technologies filed an answer on September 29,
2017, denying the allegations in the Complaint. ECF No. 4.
October 30, 2017, Plaintiffs moved to conditionally certify a
class of similarly-situated Pure Technologies employees under
the FLSA's collective action provision, 29 U.S.C. §
216(b). See ECF Nos. 11 & 11-1. On November 7,
2017, a telephone conference was held in which the Court
determined that limited discovery was necessary before
Defendant Pure Technologies would respond to Plaintiffs'
Motion. ECF Nos. 14 & 15. Shortly thereafter, Pure
Technologies sent Plaintiffs' counsel an Offer of
Judgment for each respective Plaintiff. ECF No. 20-1 at 2.
Simpson's Offer of Judgment was based on Pure
Technologies' records, which showed that during the
relevant time period of recovery (September 1, 2014 to
September 30, 2016), Simpson worked 1, 009.3 overtime hours,
equaling $27, 932.64 in back wages and liquidated damages.
ECF No. 20-1 at 3. Pure Technologies also proffered an
additional, to-be-determined sum to cover reasonable
attorneys' fees. ECF No. 20-1 at 3. On December 4, 2017,
Simpson's counsel informed Pure Technologies that Simpson
would accept the Offer of Judgment. Accordingly, Simpson was
not deposed, and his case has not been included in Pure
Technologies' opposition to Plaintiffs' pending
motion to conditionally certify a
“similarly-situated” class under the FLSA.
Id.; see also ECF No. 18.
March 22, 2018, the parties filed the pending Joint Motion,
seeking Court approval of Pure Technologies' Offer of
Judgment. ECF No. 20. On April 18, the Court entered a
Memorandum Opinion and Order, finding that (1) FLSA issues
were actually in dispute, such that settlement was
appropriate; and (2) the Offer of Judgment was fair and
reasonable. See ECF No. 21; Beam v. Dillon's
Bus Serv. Inc., No. DKC 14-3838, 2015 WL 4065036, at *3
(D. Md. July 1, 2015). The Court then ordered the parties to
submit supplemental briefing supporting the requested award
of attorneys' fees, to which the parties responded on May
2, 2018. ECF Nos. 21 & 22.
FLSA provides that “in addition to any judgment awarded
to the plaintiff or plaintiffs, ” the Court must
“allow a reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by
the defendant, and costs of the action.” 29 U.S.C.
§ 216(b). Courts in this district independently assess
the reasonableness of requested fees, even where the parties
agree to a fee and represent that the fee was negotiated
without regard to plaintiff's settlement amount.
Kianpour v. Restaurant Zone, Inc., No.
DKC-11-0802, 2011 WL 5375082, at *3-*5 (D. Md. Nov. 4, 2011)
(“[I]t would make little sense to require the amount of
the fees awarded to be reasonable where the plaintiffs
prevail on the merits, but to abandon that requirement
altogether where the parties agree to settle the
case.”); see also Amrhein v. Regency Mgmt. Serv.,
LLC, 2013 WL 1809608, at *1 (D. Md. May 6, 2014);
Saman, 2013 WL 2949047, at *6-*7; accord Grissom
v. The Mills Corp., 549 F.3d 313, 322-23 (4th. Cir.
2008). The Court typically assesses the reasonableness of
attorneys' fees by the lodestar method, which is the
“reasonable hourly rate multiplied by hours reasonably
expended.” Johnson, 2017 WL 2266768, at *4
(quoting Grissom, 549 F.3d at 320). The Court also
considers the following 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.
Barber v. Kimbrell's, Inc., 577 F.2d 216, 226 n.
28 (4th Cir. 1978)
parties seek $10, 000 in attorney's fees and costs. ECF
Nos. 20 & 22. This sum was calculated after
“several rounds of discussion regarding the
reasonableness of the fees, ” during which
Simpson's counsel determined through its records that the
maximum fee award for Simpson's claim was $20, 710, which
defense counsel vigorously disputed. See ECF No. 22.
“Ultimately, with full recognition of the fact that a
range of outcomes could be considered ‘reasonable,
' ” the parties agreed that $10, 000 was an
appropriate payment. Id. The Court agrees.
the parties calculated the proposed fee based on the
“number of hours reasonably expended, ” after
extended negotiations, and then multiplied these hours by the
rates customarily charged by Plaintiff's firm. ECF Nos.
22, 22-1, 22-2. The fees charged by Plaintiff's firm are
“in line with . . . established rates that [this Court
has] deemed reasonable for lodestar calculations.”
Johnson, 2017 WL 2266768, at *4; compare
Loc. R. 1(c), Appendix B with ECF Nos. 22-1 &
the remaining factors, this case is in its early stages and
presents relatively simple issues regarding employee
classification under the FLSA, a legal issue in which the
parties' counsel is well-versed. ECF No. 22. Further,
“there is nothing remarkable or unique about the
allegations in Mr. Simpson's case that would mandate a
different amount of time spent on the representation.”
Id. Finally, and importantly, the Offer of Judgment
fully compensates Simpson for recoverable damages.
See ECF Nos. 21 & 22. Accordingly, an award of
$10, 000 in fees and costs to Simpson's counsel is