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Blake v. Supreme Service & Specialty Co., Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 20, 2017

MICHAEL BLAKE, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED Plaintiffs,
v.
SUPREME SERVICE & SPECIALTY COMPANY, INC.

         SECTION: E

          WILKINSON, MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          ORDER AND OPINION

          HON. SUSAN MORGAN, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Joint Motion to Approve Settlement filed by Defendant Supreme Service & Specialty Co., Inc. and Plaintiffs Larry L. Anzaldua, Wyatt DeHart, Johnny Garcia, Jr., Justin R. Garza, Nathan Godard, Michael Gollehon, Eric Gutierrez, Justin Kanewske, Tom Kitchens, Chad E. Manuel, Alfredo Mendez, Brian Mosley, Ernesto Olivarez, Cole O'Neal, Brian Riley, Joshua A. Sells, and Arturo Trevino in this Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuit. For the reasons below, the motion is GRANTED.

         Case Overview and Settlement Terms

         Michael Blake filed this lawsuit on July 13, 2016. He contended that Supreme Service paid him and other similarly-situated oil field service workers a fixed salary plus a non-discretionary bonus but did not pay overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. [Doc.1 ¶1.2] The claims raised in this lawsuit are identical to those asserted against Supreme Service in a prior Fair Labor Standards Act action styled Kervin et al. vs. Supreme Service & Specialty Co., Inc., Case No. 2:15-cv-01172-SM-KWR (the “Kervin lawsuit”) which settled in June 2016.

         By agreement, a putative class of plaintiffs was conditionally certified in this lawsuit shortly after the case was filed. [Docs.27, 28] Plaintiffs Larry L. Anzaldua, Wyatt DeHart, Johnny Garcia, Jr., Justin R. Garza, Nathan Godard, Michael Gollehon, Eric Gutierrez, Justin Kanewske, Tom Kitchens, Chad E. Manuel, Alfredo Mendez, Brian Mosley, Ernesto Olivarez, Cole O'Neal, Brian Riley, Joshua A. Sells, and Arturo Trevino have joined the lawsuit at various times, some before the Court's conditional certification order and some afterwards.

         Supreme Service asserted the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense in its Answer. [Doc.23] Supreme Service also filed a motion for summary judgment on this issue. [Doc.25] Supreme Service argued Plaintiffs' lack evidence of “willfulness” sufficient to apply the FLSA's three-year statute of limitations. Supreme Service contends the claims of these 17 Plaintiffs should be wholly barred by the FLSA's two-year statute of limitations and the claims of eight other Plaintiffs should be partially barred.

         Each side to this dispute believes that the evidence and testimony will indisputably support their respective claims. But the parties recognize and acknowledge that the expense in time and money of litigation, the uncertainty and risk of litigation, as well as the difficulties and delays inherent in such litigation make settlement of this matter a mutually appealing resolution.

         With respect to Supreme Service's statute of limitations affirmative defense, Plaintiffs made two proposals which were similar to the settlement negotiated for similarly-situated plaintiffs in the Kervin lawsuit. First, the eight plaintiffs[1] who arguably had claims partially barred by the two-year statute of limitations would release those claims. Second, in exchange, Supreme Service would pay a flat amount of overtime (not liquidated damages) to the 17 Plaintiffs whose claims would be wholly barred by the two-year statute of limitations. After arms-length negotiations, the parties ultimately agreed to a flat payment of $750 in overtime to those 17 Plaintiffs who otherwise would have recovered nothing should Supreme Service prevail on the statute of limitations defense.

         The parties have agreed to defer the issue of potential attorneys' fees and costs recoverable for later settlement discussion or resolution by the Court. Counsel for the parties did not wish to delay settlement payments to these 17 Plaintiffs. Supreme Service will withdraw its pending motion for summary judgment after the Court's order approving settlement. The remaining Plaintiffs stipulate their claims are limited solely to the potential overtime (and liquidated damages) due for the two-year period before each Plaintiff's respective “opt in” date.

         The Court acknowledges the parties' postion that the settlement is a compromise of disputed claims and is not to be deemed as an admission of fault or liability by Supreme Service. The settlement is intended to be a total resolution and complete satisfaction of any and all claims and allegations by these 17 Plaintiffs against Supreme Service known or unknown which are or could have been asserted in this action. After approval of the settlement, the parties consent to dismissal of these 17 Plaintiffs from this lawsuit with prejudice.

         The parties maintain this settlement is fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide FLSA dispute. The attorneys for both parties are quite experienced in wage and hour litigation. They reviewed the evidence and the applicable law and have concluded that settlement of these claims is in the best interest all parties. They have recommended this settlement to their clients as a reasonable compromise of all the disputed issues of law and fact, and the parties agree.

         These 17 Plaintiffs will provide Supreme Service executed W-4 tax forms listing their correct current mailing addresses and tax withholdings. Supreme Service will determine any taxes due on the overtime payments and will mail the settlement checks and W-2 forms to the Plaintiffs' mailing addresses on those W-4 forms or any such different addresses provided by Anderson2X, PLLC. Settlement checks will be sent by first class United States mail within thirty (30) business days after this Court's order approving the settlement and dismissing these 17 Plaintiffs. If any checks are returned undeliverable with no forwarding address, Supreme Service will attempt to locate an alternative address using a “skip trace” service and will mail the checks to the alternative address, if any. If any check cannot be delivered in this manner or remains uncashed within six months after date of mailing, Supreme Service may void the check and return the funds to ...


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