United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND
W. Grimm, United States District Judge.
Mario Salinas, William Ascencio Torres, Franklin Henriquez,
and Bernaldino Salinas brought litigation in 2012 against
Defendants Commercial Interiors, Inc.
(“Commercial”) and J.I. General Contractors, Inc.
(“J.I.”) for alleged violations of the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§
201-219; the Maryland Wage and Hour Law (“MWHL”),
Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§ 3-401 to 3-430;
and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law
(“MWPCL”), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl.
§§ 3-501 to 3-509. Plaintiffs successfully appealed
an order granting Commercial's motion for summary
judgment and, after this case was reassigned to me, I entered
an order in Plaintiffs' favor and against Commercial.
Plaintiffs moved for attorneys' fees and costs, ECF Nos.
170, 171, and I referred this case to Magistrate Judge Simms
for a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”).
Simms filed a thorough and well-reasoned R&R, ECF No.
180; Defendant objected to her recommendations, Def.'s
Obj. to R&R, ECF No. 182; and Plaintiffs responded,
Pls.' Resp., ECF No. 183. I find, on de novo
review, that Judge Simms's factual findings and the
majority of her legal analysis were correct. However, I
believe a reduction in the overall fees is warranted and will
award Plaintiffs attorneys' fees in the amount of $276,
099.78 and $9, 485.95 in costs. Accordingly, Defendant's
objections are overruled in part.
Court reviews de novo any portions of a magistrate
judge's R&R to which a specific objection is made, 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), but may adopt, without explanation,
any of the magistrate judge's recommendations to which no
objections are filed, Solis, 638 F.3d at 274 (4th
Cir. 2011) (citing Camby, 718 F.2d at 200). Any
objection to a magistrate judge's findings and
recommendations must be served and filed within fourteen days
of their issuance. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2); see also
Loc. R. 301.5(a). Absent a timely objection, the Court need
“only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on
the face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation.” Diamond v. Colonial Life &
Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note).
Judge Simms notes, the Fourth Circuit recently articulated
the procedure by which attorneys' fees are awarded in
Randolph v. Powercomm Constr. Inc., 715 Fed.Appx.
227, 230 (4th Cir. 2017):
First, “the court must determine the lodestar figure by
multiplying the number of reasonable hours expended times a
reasonable rate.” Id. (internal quotation
marks omitted). “To ascertain what is reasonable in
terms of hours expended and the rate charged, the court is
bound to apply the factors set forth in Johnson v.
Georgia Highway Express Inc., 488 F.2d 714,
717-19 (5th Cir. 1974).” McAfee, 738 F.3d at
88. Second, “the court must subtract fees for hours
spent on unsuccessful claims unrelated to successful
ones.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).
When “all claims involve a common core of facts much of
counsel's time will be devoted generally to the
litigation as a whole, making it difficult to divide the
hours expended on a claim-by-claim basis.” Brodziak
v. Runyon, 145 F.3d 194, 197 (4th Cir. 1998)
(alterations, ellipsis, and internal quotation marks
omitted). Third, “the court should award some
percentage of the remaining amount, depending on the degree
of success enjoyed by the plaintiff.” McAfee,
738 F.3d at 88 (internal quotation marks omitted).
the first two steps, I adopt Judge Simms's analysis, as
her adjusted lodestar amount satisfies the Johnson
factors and Plaintiffs mostly eliminated duplicative or
non-successful claims from their requested fee award. I
further adopt Judge Simms's additional deductions for
some remaining duplicative billing entries and inadequate
descriptions. R&R 13- 15. Therefore, after “step
2” of the Randolph analysis, the adjusted
lodestar amount is equal to $306, 777.53.
Simms recommended that “no further downward adjustments
[were] necessary, ” and awarded 100 percent of the
adjusted lodestar amount. R&R 15. While I agree with
Judge Simms that Plaintiffs were quite successful in this
litigation-prevailing on an appeal to the Fourth Circuit,
Salinas v. Comm. Interiors, Inc., 848 F.3d 125,
141-42 (4th Cir. 2017), and obtaining a damages award of the
statutory maximum (albeit in an amount of only $1, 041.00 in
total)-I do find that a modest reduction in the award is
The purpose of the FLSA attorney fees provision is to insure
effective access to the judicial process by providing
attorney fees for prevailing plaintiffs with wage and hour
grievances. Courts should not place an undue emphasis on the
amount of the plaintiff's recovery because an award of
attorney fees here encourage[s] the vindication of
congressionally identified policies and rights.
Fegley v. Higgins, 19 F.3d 1126, 1134-35 (6th Cir.
1994) (internal citations omitted). Nonetheless, while
“[f]ee awards should be adequate to attract competent
counsel, [they] should not produce a windfall to
attorneys.” Jeffry Butler, et al. v. DIRECSAT USA,
LLC, et al., No. DKC-10-2747, 2016 WL 1077158,
*6 (D. Md. Mar. 18, 2016). It is without doubt that cases
such as this one are important and that without statutory
authorized attorneys' fees, many FLSA cases may not be
brought, for the simple reason that these cases often are
aggressively defended, and by the time the plaintiffs
successfully overcome the many legal obstacles raised by the
defense (including, in this case, the need to take an appeal
to the Fourth Circuit) the amount of the attorneys' fee
request may dwarf the statutorily authorized relief obtained
by the plaintiffs themselves. And, if an award of
attorneys' fees should not be a windfall to
Plaintiffs' counsel, neither should it be so parsimonious
that it amounts to a windfall to a Defendant whose aggressive
approach to the litigation required the effort by
Plaintiffs' counsel in the first place. Although
Plaintiffs' counsel has done commendably in this matter,
to award $306, 777.53 in attorneys' fees when Plaintiffs
themselves received a total award of $1, 041.00 would not
only be a windfall but contrary to the Federal Rules.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 1 (stating that the rules were
implemented and should be “employed by the court and
the parties to secure the just, speedy, and
inexpensive determination of every action and
proceeding”) (emphasis added); Jeffry Butler,
2016 WL 1077158, *6.
interest of justice and to avoid disincentivizing other
attorneys from taking cases akin to Plaintiffs' case, I
will not reduce the attorneys' fees to be equivalent to
artificial metrics such as percentage of successful claims,
or the ratio of the award compared to the amount that was
demanded as Defendant suggests, see, e.g. Def.'s
Obj. to R&R 12. Instead, I believe a ten percent
reduction is warranted to recognize that the already-adjusted
lodestar amount greatly exceeds the statutory maximum amount
of damages, which Plaintiffs received, while still permitting
reasonable attorneys' fees on a matter that required
significant effort by counsel who successfully defined a
standard for future cases. See Salinas, 848 F.3d at
141-42 (creating ...