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Claros v. Sweet Home Improvements, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

November 3, 2016

ROBERTO CLAROS, et al., Plaintiffs,
SWEET HOME IMPROVEMENTS, INC., et al., Defendants.


          Michael S. Nachmanoff United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs (Dkt. No. 63). Plaintiffs request an award of attorney's fees and costs pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the terms of the parties' Settlement Agreement. Pls.' Mem. in Supp. 2 (Dkt. No. 64). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' Motion is granted.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs Roberto Claros, Jose Claros, Fredy Zamorano, Osbaldo Lopez, Hector Andrade, and Mario Herrera Macuran were employees of Defendants' residential construction and remodeling business. Am. Compl. 3, 12 (Dkt. No. 5). On April 27, 2016, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint against all Defendants for alleged violations of the minimum wage and overtime compensation provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 206 and 207, respectively. Id. at 13. Plaintiffs also alleged that Defendant Sweet Home Improvements, Inc. breached the terms of their employment contract under Virginia law. Id. at 13-15. Plaintiffs were represented by attorneys Nicholas Marritz and Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg.

         Defendants settled this matter with Plaintiffs Fredy Zamorano, Osbaldo Lopez, and Mario Herrera Macuran (“Settling Plaintiffs”). See Ex. A (Dkt. No. 38-1); Order (Dkt. No. 42). Plaintiffs Jose Claros, Roberto Claros, and Hector Andrade (“Non-settling Plaintiffs”) moved for summary judgment, and on October 14, 2016, the Court granted their Motion for Summary Judgment. See Pls.' Mot. for Summ. J. (Dkt. No. 51); Pls.' Mem. in Supp. (Dkt. No. 52); Order (Dkt. No. 59). Pursuant to the Court's Order, the Clerk's Office entered judgment in favor of the Non-settling Plaintiffs and against Defendants. See Clerk's J. (Dkt. Nos. 60, 61).

         On October 25, 2016, all Plaintiffs moved for an award of attorney's fees and costs on three separate grounds: the FLSA, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the terms of the Settling Plaintiffs' Settlement Agreement. See Pls.' Mot. (Dkt. No. 63); Pls.' Mem. in Supp. (Dkt. No. 64). All Plaintiffs waived oral argument on the Motion. See Notice of Waiver of Hr'g (Dkt. No. 65).

         II. Discussion

         A. FLSA

         i. Attorney's Fees

         Payment of reasonable attorney's fees to be paid by the employer to the prevailing employee(s) is mandatory in FLSA cases, but the amount is within the sound discretion of the court. See 29 U.S.C. § 216(b); Burnley v. Short, 730 F.2d 136, 141 (4th Cir. 1984) (citations omitted). The amount of attorney's fees is determined by “multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate.” Cab Siquic v. Star Forestry, LLC, No. 3:13CV43, 2016 WL 1650800, at *2 (W.D. Va. Apr. 22, 2016) (citation omitted). Reasonableness is determined by considering the twelve factors enumerated in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir. 1974):

(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.

Robinson v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, 560 F.3d 235, 243-44 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Above all, the inquiry rests on whether the hours worked are reasonable, and not “excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.” Cab Siquic, 2016 WL 1650800, at *2 (quoting Travis v. Prime Lending, No. 3:07CV65, 2008 WL 2397330, at *4 (W.D. Va. June 12, 2008)). Plaintiffs bear the burden of establishing the reasonableness of the fees and costs they seek by submitting attorney affidavits and specific evidence of the prevailing market rates in the jurisdiction. Jackson v. Estelle Place, LLC, No. 1:08CV984(LMB-TRJ), 2009 WL 1321506, at *2 (E.D. Va. May 8, 2009), aff'd sub nom. Jackson v. Estelle's Place, LLC, 391 F. App'x 239 (4th Cir. 2010) (quoting Plyler v. Evatt, 902 F.2d 273, 277 (4th Cir.1990)).

         The Non-settling Plaintiffs are the prevailing party pursuant to the Court's entry of summary judgment in their favor. See Order (Dkt. No. 59). The Non-settling Plaintiffs seek an award of $12, 480.00 in attorney's fees for 39 hours worked at a rate of $320 per hour. Ex. A (Dkt. No. 64-1). In support of their fee request, the Non-settling Plaintiffs submit a declaration by attorney Nicholas Marritz with a chart of attorney's fees and costs in this case, as well as the market rate in other cases in this Court. Id. Mr. Marritz states that “in the exercise of billing discretion, ” he eliminated certain time entries, and his co-counsel, Mr. Sandoval-Moshenberg, is not billing for time spent on this case. Id. ¶ 9. Applying the relevant Johnson factors, the undersigned finds that the requested amount of attorney's fees is reasonable. See Cab Siquic, 2016 WL 1650800, at *2. The fee rate is consistent with the rate the Court approved in this case and is also consistent with the rate in similar FLSA cases. See Ex. A ¶¶ 7, 8 (Dkt. No. 64-1); see also Kennedy v. A Touch of Patience Shared Hous., Inc., 779 F.Supp.2d 516, 526 (E.D. Va. 2011) (finding attorney billing rate of $350/hour reasonable). Accordingly, the Court will grant the Non-settling Plaintiffs' request for attorney's fees in the amount of $12, 480.00.

         ii. ...

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