United States District Court, D. Maryland
P. GESNER, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
trial was held in this case from July 23 to July 26, 2018. At
the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict for
the plaintiffs. (ECF No. 241). Currently pending before the
court is: (1) Plaintiff's Petition for Award of
Attorneys' Fees and Costs (“Plaintiff's
Motion”) (ECF No. 248); (2) Defendants' Joint
Motion for Opposition of Plaintiff's Requests for an
Enhanced Judgment to Gain Unreasonable Attorneys' Fees
(“Defendants' Opposition”) (ECF Nos. 251-1,
252); and (3) Plaintiff's Reply in Support of Its
Petition for Award of Attorneys' Fees and Costs
(“Plaintiff's Reply”) (ECF No. 253). The
issues are fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary. Loc.
R. 105.6. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's
Motion (ECF No. 123) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
December 5, 2015, plaintiff Maurlanna Braxton filed a Class
and Collective Action Complaint, on behalf of herself and
other similarly situated individuals, against defendants
Eldorado Lounge, Inc. (“Eldorado”), Four One
Four, LLC d/b/a King & Diamonds (“King &
Diamonds”), and Kenneth Jackson (“Jackson”)
to recover unpaid wages and statutory damages for violations
of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29
U.S.C. § 201 et seq.; the Maryland Wage and
Hour Law (“MWHL”), as amended, Md. Code (2016
Repl. Vol.), §§ 3-401 et seq. of the Labor
and Employment Article (“L.E.”); and the Maryland
Wage Payment and Collection Law (“MWPCL”), as
amended, L.E. §§ 3-501 et seq. (ECF No.
1). In plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, plaintiffs
Brittany Scott and Stephanie Gamble were joined. (ECF No.
19). Plaintiff Brionna Williams was joined in plaintiff's
Second Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 28). Plaintiffs sought
damages amounting to all wages owed, liquidated damages under
the FLSA, liquidated damages under the MWHL, and treble
damages under the MWCPL. (ECF No. 220).
moved for partial summary judgment as to defendants'
liability and with respect to their affirmative defenses.
(ECF No. 39). This motion was denied in part (ECF No. 148) and
the case proceeded to trial. The jury returned a verdict for
plaintiffs and found that defendants owed Maurlanna Braxton
$5, 000 for work after December 1, 2013, Brittany Scott $910
for work after July 5, 2014, and Stephanie Gamble $120 for
work after July 5, 2014, under the FLSA only. (ECF No. 241).
The court further ordered an award of liquidated damages
under the FLSA in an additional equal amount to the unpaid
wages awarded by the jury. (ECF No. 249).
filed the instant motion on August 8, 2018. (ECF No. 248).
Plaintiffs seek an award of reasonable attorneys' fees
and costs pursuant to the FLSA. (ECF No. 248 at 1).
Plaintiffs request $104, 189.00 in attorneys'
and $3, 150.00 in costs. (ECF No. 248 at 2). In support of
this motion, plaintiffs include a statement of fees and costs
and an affidavit from counsel. (ECF Nos. 248-1, 248-2).
Defendants challenge this request and argue that the amount
was caused in large part by plaintiffs' failure to review
discovery and engage in settlement discussions. (ECF No. 252
at 4, 13).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
FLSA declares that the court “shall, in addition to any
judgment awarded to the plaintiff or plaintiffs, allow a
reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by the defendant,
and costs of the action.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).
While the payment of attorney's fees is mandatory, the
amount “is within the sound discretion of the trial
court.” Burnley v. Short, 730 F.2d 136, 141
(4th Cir. 1984). “The proper calculation of an
attorney's fee award involves a three-step process.
First, the court must ‘determine the lodestar figure by
multiplying the number of reasonable hours expended times a
reasonable rate.'” McAfee v. Boczar, 738
F.3d 81, 88 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Robinson v. Equifax
Info. Servs., LLC, 560 F.3d 235, 243 (4th Cir. 2009)).
In making this determination, “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).” Id. (citing Robinson,
560 F.3d at 243-44). The twelve Johnson 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.
Id. at 88 n.5. Second, “the court must
‘subtract fees for hours spent on unsuccessful claims
unrelated to successful ones.'” Id. at 88
(quoting Robinson, 560 F.3d at 244). Lastly,
“the court should award ‘some percentage of the
remaining amount, depending on the degree of success enjoyed
by the plaintiff.'” Id.
request attorneys' fees in the amount of $104, 189.00 for
a total of approximately 345 hours. The vast majorities of the
time entries presented by plaintiffs list an hourly rate of
(ECF No. 248-1) and plaintiffs specifically request a billing
rate of $300 (ECF No. 248 at 7). Plaintiffs also note that
this rate is squarely within the guidelines listed in
Appendix B of the U.S. District Court of Maryland Local
Rules, which identifies a range of $225-$350 per hour for
attorneys admitted to the bar for nine to fourteen years.
(ECF No. 248 at 7). The attorneys here, Ken C. Gauvey, Gregg
Greenberg, and Jennifer Lubinski have been admitted to the
Maryland bar for approximately eleven, ten, and twenty years,
respectively. Id. Defendants have not asserted any
objection to the use of this billing rate. (ECF Nos. 251,
252). Accordingly, I find that $300 is a reasonable hourly
rate. At the outset, I will reduce plaintiffs' requested
attorneys' fees by $700 to $103, 489.00 to adjust for the
hours charged at a higher billing rate.
additionally argue that the amount of hours worked is
reasonable under a Johnson factor analysis. Counsel
presented a billing statement that identified the amount of
time expended and tasks performed and recorded these entries
contemporaneously. (ECF No. 248 at 6). Plaintiffs cite to
defendants' actions in ignoring court orders, failing to
cooperate, and filing of frivolous motions as a cause for
increased time and labor necessary for the case. (ECF No. 248
at 7). Plaintiffs also argue that the case addressed novel
questions of fact and law and that counsel litigated these
issues with expert skill. (ECF No. 248 at 8). As to the
fourth factor, counsel claim that they suffered significant
opportunity costs due to the years spent on this case. (ECF
No. 248 at 9). Additionally, this case was taken on a
contingency basis. Id. Plaintiffs also argue that
the jury returned a significant recovery for plaintiffs that
serves to discourage employers from theft of employee pay.
(ECF No. 248 at 10). Plaintiffs argue that they obtained this
recovery despite the many complications with the case,
including the lack of evidence regarding hours worked and pay
received. Id. Plaintiffs state that each
plaintiffs' attorney has a significant, positive
reputation in employment law, including the designation of
“SuperLawyer.” Id. Finally, plaintiffs
cite to comparable awards of attorneys' fees in matters
with similar and even lesser results. (ECF No. 248 at 11)
(citing Almendarez et al. v. J.T.T. ...