United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. Hazel, United States District Judge.
case is before the Court on remand from the Fourth Circuit,
which vacated the Court's prior award of attorney's
fees, ECF No. 173. See Randolph v. Powercomm
Construction. Inc., 715 Fed. App"x 227 (4th Cir.
2017). The parties have filed additional written submissions
on the issues presented by the fourth Circuit. ECF Nos. 185.
186. 189. 190. and the Court heard arguments from the parties
during an on-the-record telephone conference held on May 9,
2018. ECF No. 187. For the following reasons, the Court
awards attorney's fees to Plaintiffs in the amount of SI
case arose from a dispute over whether Defendants PowerComm
Construction, Inc. and PowerComm's owner. David Kwasnik.
St.. paid Plaintiffs, who worked for Defendants as traffic
controllers, the appropriate overtime wages. ECF No. 166 at
The parties entered a settlement agreement on December 22.
2015. requiring payment to Plaintiffs of $100, 000.02.
Id. at 7: ECF No. 156 at 9. Upon the parties*
motion, this Court held a Fairness Hearing on February 18.
2016. to determine the fairness of the agreement.
See ECF No. 166 at 1. The Court approved the
settlement agreement in a Memorandum Opinion dated April 28.
2016. Id. However, the parties were unable to reach
an agreement regarding the attorney's fees, and the Court
directed Plaintiffs to file a motion for attorney's fees,
which they did. ECF Nos. 167 and 168. After considering the
written submissions of the parties, on October 31. 2016. the
Court granted-in-part the Plaintiffs" Motion for
Attorney's Fees, but instructed the Plaintiffs to submit
a revised request for fees and costs, deducting certain
expenses and adjusting some billing rates. ECF No. 173 at 16.
On November 21. 2016. the Court granted Plaintiffs'
Revised Petition for Award of Attorney's Fees and Costs.
ECF No. 175. and awarded Plaintiffs $183, 764.00 in fees and
$4, 852.44 in costs. ECF No. 176.
awarding attorney's fees to Plaintiffs, the Court
declined to subtract fees for work performed regarding 10
plaintiffs, out of the 65 total plaintiffs, who were
dismissed on summary judgment as their claims were
time-barred. ECF No. 173 at 13. The Court also declined to
adjust the amount of attorney's fees on the basis of the
success of the litigation, reasoning that "the overall
recovery of $100, 000.02 represents thirty-eight percent of
[the Plaintiffs"] claimed damages that fall within the
statute of limitation." Id. at 13.
appealed the Court's decision to the Fourth Circuit. ECF
No. 177. The Fourth Circuit vacated the Court's fee award
and remanded the case. Randolph, 715 Fed.Appx. at
232. The Fourth Circuit began by stating that courts should
follow "a three-step process for arriving at a
reasonable attorney's fee." Id. at 230.
First, "determine the lodestar figure"; second,
"subtract fees for hours spent on unsuccessful claims
unrelated to successful ones": third, "the court
should award some percentage of the remaining amount,
depending on the degree of success enjoyed by the
plaintiff." Id. The Fourth Circuit emphasized
that "[i]n general, the decision whether and in what
amount to award attorney fees is one committed to the award
court's discretion, subject only to review for abuse of
that discretion." hi. (quoting Brown &
Pipkins. LLC v. Sev. Emp. Int'l Union, 846 F.3d 716.
729 (4th Cir. 2017)). The Fourth Circuit concluded, however,
that the Court had abused its discretion in two regards.
the Fourth Circuit assessed whether "the district court
abused its discretion by failing to reduce the award at step
two of the fee analysis." hi. at 230-31. The
Fourth Circuit noted that in declining to deduct time spent
by Plaintiffs' counsel pursuing the claims of the
dismissed Plaintiffs, the Court "cited the general
principle that an award need not be reduced for unsuccessful
claims that share a common core of facts with successful
claims." Id. at 231. The Fourth Circuit,
however, found it "difficult to imagine how the
time-barred claims of the dismissed Plaintiffs are
intertwined with the successful claims, other than the two
categories of claims sharing the same Defendants and both
relating to unpaid wages." Id. The Fourth
Circuit concluded that "[b]ecause the district court
failed to adequately consider time spent pursuing claims on
behalf of the dismissed Plaintiffs at step two of the fee
analysis, we are constrained to vacate the fee award, and we
remand for the district court to conduct a proper analysis at
step two." Id.
the Fourth Circuit noted that "the district court
declined to reduce the fee award based on the results
obtained because Plaintiffs purportedly received 38% of their
claimed damages that they incurred during the statute of
limitations period, and the court did not want to discourage
plaintiffs' attorneys from reaching reasonable
settlements by reducing the fee award." Id. at
231. The Fourth Circuit noted that "the latter
justification may be persuasive." but pointed out that
"the court clearly erred in its characterization of the
percentage of claimed damages received by Plaintiffs."
Id. Specifically, the Fourth Circuit reasoned that
"the district court overlooked the fact that Plaintiffs
pursued liquidated damages . .. resulting in a total alleged
damages amount of $789, 916. When the settlement amount is
divided by this figure, one discovers that Plaintiffs
received about 13% of the damages that they sought."
Id. The Fourth Circuit concluded that "the
district court was not required to proportionally reduce the
award to account for this disparity." but instructed the
Court to "reconsider its finding at step three that the
relief obtained represents 38% of the relief claimed by
Plaintiffs for claims that accrued within the statute of
limitations." Id. at 232.
the Fourth Circuit's remand of the case, the Court
received additional written submissions from the parties. On
November 22. 2017. the Plaintiffs submitted a Motion to
Schedule Hearing, asking to be heard on the issues raised by
the Fourth Circuit. ECF No. 185. On December 5. 2017,
Defendants opposed Plaintiffs" request. ECF No. 1 86.
The Court scheduled a telephone conference on the issues
raised by the Fourth Circuit, and sought the parties'
input on a number of issues. ECF No. 188. On May 7. 2018.
Plaintiffs submitted an additional "Documentary
Submission." ECF No. 189. and on May 16. 2018.
Defendants filed an additional written submission. ECF No.
explained above, the Fourth Circuit found that the Court
abused its discretion at the second step of the
attorney's fee analysis by failing to sufficiently
account for-or explain its decision not to account for-the 10
plaintiffs whose claims were dismissed at the summary
judgment stage. In their additional written submission.
Plaintiffs argue that five of the ten dismissed plaintiffs
were identified by Defendants, and that Plaintiffs should not
be "punished for representing individual [Plaintiffs]
mistakenly represented to them as being within the timely
class." ECF No. 189 at 2. Plaintiffs argue that they
represented the remaining five plaintiffs because
"Defendants failed and/or refused to produce any
confirming discovery for any of the foregoing
plaintiffs." Id. at 3. Thus, Plaintiffs argue
that the amount of attorney's fees .should not be reduced
at all. On the other hand. Defendants argue in their written
submission that the attorney's fees should be reduced by
a fiat 15%; the approximate percentage of total Plaintiffs
whose claims were found to be time barred (10 out of 65). ECF
No. 190 at 3.
of their Revised Petition for Award of Attorneys' Fees
and Costs. Plaintiffs provided the Court with 44 pages of
billing summaries, including detailed descriptions of the
work performed. ECF No. 175 at 5-48. The Court carefully
reviewed these descriptions, and was able to identify the
entries that included the 10 Plaintiffs whose claims were
time-barred. Kg., Id. at 18. line 365 (billing for
"Telephone Conference With Alonzo Mudd." one of the
10 dismissed Plaintiffs): id. line 379 (billing for
"Telephone Conference With Jacqueline Ridley."
another one of the 10 dismissed
Plaintiffs)." Where one of the unsuccessful Plaintiffs
was expressly mentioned in the billing description, the Court
concludes that this work was not "intertwined with the
successful claims" and should be deducted from the final
award. Randolph, 715 Fed. App"x at
Adding up all of the time that was billed on unsuccessful
claims, the Court reduces the attorney's fees award by
$6, 007.50. bringing the total tee award to $177, 756.50.
Having reviewed the descriptions, the Court concludes that
the remainder of the time billed was either spent working
directly on a successful Plaintiffs case, or was spent on
work product that applied to the entire class-e.g.,
drafting the Complaint, drafting responses to dispositive
motions, etc.-which constituted the type of
"intertwined" work for which the Court need not
reduce the amount of fees awarded. For example, the Complaint
does not refer to any Plaintiffs specifically other than the
class representative. Gregory Randolph. See ECF No.
1. Thus, the work done preparing this document was
sufficiently intertwined for all Plaintiffs, and would have
taken the same amount of time regardless of whether the ten
ultimately unsuccessful plaintiffs were part of the class.
Similarly, at the Motion for Summary Judgment stage.
Defendants argued that the claims of seventeen Plaintiffs
were time-barred. ECF No. 128-1 at 13-14. In their opposition
filing. Plaintiffs did not address these seventeen plaintiffs
individually: rather. Plaintiffs argued broadly that none of
the seventeen plaintiffs" claims should be dismissed
because "Defendants failed to properly maintain time
records." ECF No. 130 at 37. There were no separate
arguments that were made solely on behalf of the ten
plaintiffs whose claims were found to be time-barred. Thus,
the work done on behalf of the ten unsuccessful plaintiffs
was intertwined with the work done on behalf of the seven
successful plaintiffs. As such, the Court will not reduce the
overall award for this type of work.