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Ford v. Navika Capital Group, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

February 9, 2017

TERESA FORD, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
NAVIKA CAPITAL GROUP, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          KRISTI K. DuBOSE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion for fees/costs (Doc. 86), Defendants' Response (Doc. 87), Plaintiffs' Reply (Doc. 88) and Plaintiffs' Bill of Costs (Doc. 89).

         I. Background

         On July 8, 2014, 14 Plaintiffs initiated this FLSA collective again against Defendants. (Doc. 1). On March 12, 2015, Stokes was terminated as a plaintiff. (Doc. 24). On May 12, 2015, White was terminated as a plaintiff. (Docs. 35, 37). On June 9, 2015, Wilkins was terminated as a plaintiff. (Docs. 42, 43). On June 10, 2015, Plaintiffs' counsel's request to withdraw from representing Carrier, Hannon and McGee in this case was granted. (Docs. 32, 44). On July 1, 2015, Carrier, Hannon and McGee were terminated as plaintiffs. (Doc. 49). On March 22, 2016, Portis was terminated as a plaintiff. Thus, as of March 23, 2016, seven (7) plaintiffs remained in this case - Ford, Franklin, Knight, Law, Poellnitz, Reed and Williams.

         On August 19, 2016, these seven (7) plaintiffs moved the Court for approval of the settlement agreements. (Docs. 80). The motion was denied but with leave to refile. (Doc. 81). On November 17, 2016 these plaintiffs moved the Court for approval of the amended settlement agreements. (Doc. 84). On November 30, 2016, this Court granted the parties' joint motion to approve the amended settlement agreement and release, reserving the issue of attorneys' fees and costs for another day. (Doc. 85).

         Notably, as this is an FLSA case, the Court had to determine whether the settlement is a “fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide dispute” of the claims raised to approve the settlement. Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States of Am., 679 F.2d 1350, 1354-1355 (11th Cir. 1982). This includes an assessment of attorneys' fees and costs. As such, in granting the parties' motion to approve the amended settlements, the Court considered the parties' representations that “Plaintiffs' counsel will be filing an application for an additional, separate sum of reasonable attorneys' fees and costs, meaning that counsel's recovery is in no way related to those sums to be paid to Plaintiffs in compromise of their claims.” (Doc. 84 at 8). The parties stated that they disagreed on the amount to attorneys' fees to be assessed and so “agreed to let the Court determine” the amount, as set forth in the proposed settlement agreements at Paragraph 7. (Id. at 10). Paragraph 7(a) of the settlement agreements provides:

(a) NAVIKA has agreed to pay the reasonable attorneys' fees and costs incurred by FORD, with such fees being determined by the Court. The Parties agree that counsel for FORD shall file a motion to determine the reasonable attorneys' fees incurred by counsel for FORD herein in accordance with Local Rule 7.0. The Parties further agree that, unless the Court orders otherwise, such motion shall be submitted on the papers and payment for reasonable attorney's fees shall be made within thirty (30) days after the Court determines and awards such.

         In granting on the motion to approve the settlement, the Court stated:

As set forth above, the motion is GRANTED and the settlement agreements are APPROVED. The parties have agreed that the Court will calculate attorneys' fees in this matter. Under the FLSA attorneys' fees are an integral part of damages and thus judgment will not be entered until the attorneys' fee determination is resolved. See Shelton v. Ervin, 830 F.2d 182, 184 (11th Cir.1987) (“…[W]e hold that attorney fees are an integral part of the merits of FLSA cases and part of the relief sought therein. Thus, a final determination as to the award of attorney fees is required as part of the final appealable judgment.”).

(Doc. 85). The Court ordered briefing and on December 21, 2016, Plaintiffs moved for fees and costs, and on January 11, 2017 submitted a Bill of Costs. (Docs. 86, 89).

         Specifically, Plaintiffs seeks attorneys' fees and costs “to be paid by the Defendants.” (Doc. 86). According to counsel, they recovered $41, 560.00 for the seven (7) Plaintiffs on their FLSA claims against the Defendants. (Docs. 86 at 5, 86-1 (Decltn. Steele)). Now, Plaintiffs' counsel seeks recovery of an additional $68, 999.50 in attorneys' fees and $1, 160.69 in costs/expenses for 450.80 hours[1] litigating this case on behalf of all 14 of the original plaintiffs from July 4, 2014-December 21, 2016, as well as $2, 120.00 for preparing the fees motion:

After excluding hours that have been eliminated through the exercise of billing judgment; reducing the hourly rates in accordance with the prevailing market rates in Mobile, Alabama; analyzing the decisions of this Court; Plaintiffs' counsel reduced the 536.10 hours expended prosecuting this matter to 450.8 for which counsel is seeking compensation. Plaintiffs' current lodestar is $68, 999.50-which leads to an effective “blended” rate of $153.06 per hour. Plaintiffs seek costs and expenses in the amount of $1, 160.69. Consequently, the question before this Court is whether the $68, 999.50 lodestar amount of fees for Plaintiffs' counsel's work prosecuting this action and the $2, 120.00 lodestar amount for preparing this application are reasonable.

(Doc. 86 at 2). Plaintiffs' separately filed Bill of Costs seeks an additional $733.90 ($400 for fees of the clerk and $333.90 for service of the summons/petition).[2] (Docs. 89, 89-1, 89-2). Defendants vigorously oppose the amount of attorneys' fees and costs requested. (Doc. 88).

         II. FLSA ...


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