United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
TYLER LEGROS, on Behalf of Himself and Others Similarly Situated
MUD CONTROL EQUIPMENT, CO.
REBECCA F. DHOETRY UNITED STATE DISTRICT JUDGE.
a settlement conference with the Magistrate Judge, the
parties reached a settlement in this case, which previously
had been conditionally certified as a collective action under
the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C.
§ 201, et seq. Thereafter, counsel filed a Joint Motion
for Approval of the Settlement and to Dismiss the Collective
Action With Prejudice. [Doc. 67] Under the proposed
Settlement Agreement, thirty collective action members will
receive backpay and an equal amount of liquidated damages
under the FLSA, no collective action member's payment
will be reduced by attorneys' fees and expenses, the
action will be dismissed with prejudice, and each party will
bear its own attorney's fees and costs except as provided
in the proposed settlement agreement. For the following
reasons, the Joint Motion for Approval of the Settlement and
to Dismiss the Collective Action With Prejudice [Doc. 67] is
this case has been conditionally certified as a collective
action under the FLSA, this Courtmust approve the settlement
before itmay be finalized. Rivas v. Beaucoup Crawfish of
Eunice, Inc., 2014 WL 5488390, *2 (W.D. La.
2014)(citing Brooklyn Sav. Bank v. Oneil, 324 U.S.
697 (1945); Camp v. Progressive Corp., 2004 WL
2149079 (E.D. La. 2004); and Liger v. New Orleans Hornets
NBA Limited Partnership. 2009 WL 2856246 (E.D. La.
2009)). Before the Court may approve a settlement in a
collective action brought under the FLSA, it must first
determine whether the settlement involves the resolution of a
bona fide dispute over an FLSA provision and then decide
whether the settlement is fair and reasonable. Id.
(citing Camp at *4); see also Lynn's Food
Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1352-55
(llthCir. \9S2), Jarradv. Southern Shipbldg. Corp.,
163 F.2d 960 (5th Cir. 1947); and Stalnaker v. Novar
Corp., 293 F.Supp.2d 1260, 1263 (M.D. Ala. 2003).
instant case, the Parties fiercely contested the claims and
defenses asserted. Plaintiff alleged that Mud Control's
employees performed largely manual labor in routine fashion,
which included operating, servicing, and repairing solids
control equipment. Mud Control argued some of the Plaintiffs
performed work-related tasks by exercising their own
independent judgement and discretion, made high level
decisions that affected the overall success of business
projects, supervised more than 2 employees for over 80 hours
in a single workweek, and some were highly compensated
earning in excess of $100, 000 a year.
Plaintiffs argued that all Plaintiffs were similarly situated
in the terms of relevant job duties and compensation
practices, regardless of the length of time or location
worked for Mud Control. On the other hand, Mud Control
maintained that it would seek decertification of the FLSA
classes because it believed that its employees were not
similarly situated and the cases should be tried independent
of each other.
Parties further disagreed on whether Plaintiffs could satisfy
their burden to demonstrate that Mud Control acted willfully,
which in turn affects whether Plaintiffs' recovery would
be limited to two (2) years or three (3) years. See
29 U.S.C. § 255. Plaintiff also contended that Mud
Control would not be able to meet its burden to prove that it
acted in good faith, which would implicate the amount of any
of liquidated damages. See 29U.S.C.§260. Mud
Control maintained that at all times it acted in good faith,
and damages (if any) should be recovered only for a two (2)
Court finds the instant action (as set forth above) presents
a bona fide dispute over FLSA provisions. Because these
issues are sufficient for this Court to find "that
genuine uncertainty as to the outcome existed" for each
side, a bona fide dispute exists in this case. Rivas
at *2 (citing Liger at *3).
determining whether a settlement is fair, adequate and
reasonable, the Court should consider the following six
factors: (1) the existence of fraud or collusion behind the
settlement; (2) the complexity, expense, and likely duration
of the litigation; (3) the stage of the proceedings and the
amount of discovery completed; (4) the probability of
plaintiffs' success on the merits; (5) the range of
possible recovery; and (6) the opinions of the class counsel,
class representatives, and absent class members. Reed v.
General Motors Corp., 703 F.2d 170, 172 (5th
Cir. 1983); see also Camp at *5; Rivas at
*2. When considering these factors, the court should keep in
mind the "strong presumption" in favor of finding a
settlement fair. Camp at *J (citing Cotton v.
Hinton, 559 F.2d 1326, 1331 (5th Cir. 1977);
Henderson v. Eaton, 2002 WL 31415728, at *2 (E.D.
matter, there is no evidence of any fraud or collusion behind
the settlement. This Court may presume that no fraud or
collusion occurred between counsel, in the absence of any
evidence to the contrary. Camp at *7. Moreover,
since this case was filed in 2014, counsel for the parties
have vigorously represented and advanced the position of
their clients, engaging in discovery, and competently
addressed the issues presented in this litigation.
Furthermore, given the Magistrate Judge's active role in
overseeing this litigation and the attendance by the parties
at a settlement conference held on July 28, 2016, which
culminated in the proposed November 2016 Settlement
Agreement, it is clear that the settlement has been arrived
at by arms-length bargaining and good faith negotiations. The
first factor favors approval of the settlement as fair,
adequate and reasonable.
regard to the inquiries set forth in the second factor - the
complexity, expense, and likely duration of the litigation -
this FLSA action presented multiple complex legal issues
which have been zealously litigated by experienced counsel,
at significant expense. Had a settlement not been
consummated, the Court is of the opinion that this case would
likely have remained in litigation for a significant amount
of time, in excess of at least one or two years, causing the
parties to have incurred significant additional expense.
Following the opt-in deadline, the defendants intended to
file a motion to decertify the collective action, which would
have necessitated additional discovery, briefing and court
appearances. Accordingly, the second factor weighs in favor
of finding that the settlement is fair, adequate and
third factor - the stage of the proceedings and the amount of
discovery completed -likewise supports a finding that the
settlement is fair, adequate and reasonable, and accordingly,
should be approved. This case has been pending for almost
three years. During its pendency, the parties have conducted
discovery and factual and legal investigations. The parties
stipulated to conditional certification and issuance of
notice to a proposed class consisting of current and former
day rate field service technicians employed by defendant for
the previous three years. While several substantive issues
remain outstanding, including whether this collective action
should be decertified, this case is ripe for settlement.
fourth factor - probability of plaintiff s success on the
merits - supports a finding that the settlement is fair,
adequate and reasonable. This case has been litigated by
competent lawyers on each side. Accordingly, while at
present, the plaintiffs enj oy a high probability of success
on the merits, given the competency of defense counsel and
the uncertainty of adverse rulings on the undecided
decertification issue, failure on the merits is equally
likely. Moreover, depending on the outcome of this
litigation, an appeal to the Fifth Circuit by each side would
be likely. Thus, based upon the ...