United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS United States District Judge
case arises under the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”). The Court approved the settlement of
Plaintiffs' underlying FLSA overtime and willfulness
claims on October 26, 2016. (Doc. 93). Still remaining for
the Court to resolve are Plaintiffs' Motion for
Attorneys' Fees and Expenses (doc. 96) (the “Fee
Motion”) and Defendants' Motion To Strike (doc.
102) (the “Strike Motion”). The parties have
filed their supporting and opposing materials. (Docs. 97-98,
101, 104). For the reasons stated below, the Fee Motion is
GRANTED as modified herein and the Strike
Motion is DENIED.
Plaintiffs' Fee Motion
Philip Jason Parker, Carolyn England, Buffy R. Dulaney,
William D. McGee, Maisie Slaughter, and Carrie Hannah Borden
(the “Named Plaintiffs”) initiated this action
against Defendants on November 20, 2014. (Doc. 1). On
December 30, 2014, the Named Plaintiffs filed an Amended
Collective Action Complaint (doc. 9) that asserted overtime
as well as uncompensated-time violations of the FLSA.
(See generally id.). The Named Plaintiffs further
alleged that Defendants engaged in retaliatory conduct
against them and that their FLSA violations were willful.
6, 2015, the Court granted the Named Plaintiffs' Motion
for Conditional Certification. (Doc. 37). Over the course of
the litigation, an additional 27 Plaintiffs consented to
joining the case and, at the highest level, counsel were
representing a total of 33 Plaintiffs. On October 20, 2015,
the parties engaged in mediation, but were unsuccessful in
reaching a resolution of the litigation at that time. (Doc.
however, the parties reached a good-faith compromise and
presented it to the Court. As set out in the Order Approving
FLSA Settlement, judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiffs
“in the amount of $208, 328.50, plus reasonable
attorneys' fees and expenses in an amount to be
determined by the Court . . . .” (Doc. 93 at 2). Under
the terms of the parties' settlement, this payment to
Plaintiffs represents “full relief of recorded unpaid
overtime compensation and liquidated damages for same to
which they are entitled.” (Doc. 90 at 3).
their Fee Motion, Plaintiffs are seeking $344, 501.81 in
attorneys' fees (doc. 96 at 4 ¶ 9) and $15, 498.19
in expenses (id. ¶ 8) for a total amount of
$360, 000.00. (Doc. 96 at 5 ¶ 11). “[T]he starting
point in any determination for an objective estimate of the
value of a lawyer's services is to multiply hours
reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate. Norman
v. Housing Authority of City of Montgomery, 836 F.2d
1292, 1299 (11th Cir. 1988). Plaintiffs bear the burden of
“establishing entitlement and documenting the
appropriate hours and hourly rates.” Norman,
836 F.2d at 1303. Concerning the reasonableness of a
lawyer's hourly rate, the Eleventh Circuit has explained:
A reasonable hourly rate is the prevailing market rate in the
relevant legal community for similar services by lawyers of
reasonably comparable skills, experience, and reputation.
Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. at 895-96 n.11, 104 S.Ct.
at 1547 n.11. Accord, Gaines v. Dougherty County Board of
Education, 775 F.2d 1565, 1571 (11th Cir. 1985). The
applicant bears the burden of producing satisfactory evidence
that the requested rate is in line with prevailing market
rates. NAACP v. City of Evergreen, 812 F.2d at 1338.
Satisfactory evidence at a minimum is more than the affidavit
of the attorney performing the work. Blum, 465 U.S.
at 896 n.11, 104 S.Ct. at 1547 n.11. It should also be
noted that in line with the goal of obtaining objectivity,
satisfactory evidence necessarily must speak to rates
actually billed and paid in similar lawsuits. Testimony
that a given fee is reasonable is therefore unsatisfactory
evidence of market rate. See Hensley, 461 U.S. at
439 n.15, 103 S.Ct. at 1943 n.15. Evidence of rates may
be adduced through direct evidence of charges by lawyers
under similar circumstances or by opinion evidence. The
weight to be given to opinion evidence of course will be
affected by the detail contained in the testimony on matters
such as similarity of skill, reputation, experience,
similarity of case and client, and breadth of the sample of
which the expert has knowledge.
Norman, 836 F.2d at 1299 (emphasis added).
fee calculation consists of attorney time and paralegal time
from two separate law firms-Wiggins Childs (“WC”)
(formerly known as Wiggins Childs Quinn & Pantazis, LLC)
(doc. 96-1 at 4 ¶ 4) and Guin, Stokes & Evans
(“GSE”). (Id. at 5 ¶ 5). The hourly
rates proposed by Plaintiffs for approval are:
$450 for WC Attorney Rocco Calamusa, Jr. (“Mr.
$400 for WC Attorney Kevin Jent (“Mr. Jent”);
$125 for WC Paralegal Karen Allen (“Ms. Allen”);
$125 for WC Paralegal Traci Wiggins (“Ms.
$425 for GSE Attorney Dawn Evans (“Ms. Evans”);
$400 for GSE Attorney Rex Slate (“Mr. Slate”);
$175 for GSE Paralegal Tressy Wilson (“Ms.
96-1 at 7-10 ¶¶ 9-13).
hours claimed by Plaintiffs are:
328.90 for Mr. Calamusa;
186.25 for Mr. Jent;
103.10 for Ms. Allen;
8.70 for Ms. Wiggins;
388.20 for Ms. Evans;
28.40 for Mr. Slate; and
14.00 for Ms. Wilson.
arriving at their requested total award (i.e., fees
plus expenses) of $360, 000.00, Plaintiffs explain:
The total fees accrued to date are $415, 275.00. This amount
is comprised of attorney and paralegal time for both the
Wiggins Childs firm and the Guin, Stokes & Evans firm.
However, Plaintiffs' counsel is only seeking $344, 501.81
in fees, plus expenses in the amount of $15, 498.19, as an
agreed cap of $360, 000.00 under the settlement. See
Settlement Agreement ¶ C (Doc. 92-1). Plaintiffs'
counsel has reduced its fees as part of the settlement in
this matter. The total fee sought represents a $70, 774 (17%)
discount on the lodestar to date. Thus, should the Court
reduce the amount of expenses allowed, Plaintiffs'
counsel should still receive the full amount of $360, 000.00
allowable as part of their fee based on the total amount of
fees incurred in this case.
(Doc. 96-1 at 13 ¶ 19 (emphasis omitted)).
dispute the reasonableness of Plaintiffs' suggested rates
and claimed hours that comprise Plaintiffs' reduced fee
amount of $344, 501.81. (Doc. 97 at 5). Under Defendants'
approach, Plaintiffs' total fee award would be decreased
from $344, 501.81 to $201, 415.50-a reduction of 25% or $103,
818.75 from Plaintiffs' original pre-cap calculation of
415, 275.00. (Doc. 97 at 16). Id.
accordance with the attached revisions - and for the
following reasons - the Court will award Plaintiffs $360,
000.00 in reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses.