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Castellanos v. Saints & Santos Construction, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

March 25, 2019


         SECTION “B” (2)

          ORDER & REASONS

         Before the Court are plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees (Rec. Doc. 186), defendants' Opposition (Rec. Doc. 187), and Plaintiffs' Reply (Rec. Doc. 192), plaintiffs' Bill of Costs (Rec. Doc. 190), defendants' Opposition to plaintiffs' Bill of Costs (Rec. Doc. 193), and Clerk of Court Reasons for Taxation of Costs (Rec. Doc. 196). For the reasons below, IT IS ORDERED that plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees and bill of costs are GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.


         This is a collective action to recover unpaid overtime wages. See Rec. Doc. 1 at 1. Specifically, plaintiff Jose Castellanos brought this action on behalf of himself and others similarly situated to recover unpaid overtime wages from Defendants Saints & Santos Construction, LLC and Wiliomar Oliveira.[1] See id. Plaintiffs also sought to recover interest, liquidated damages, and attorneys' fees and costs. See id.

         Almost three months after bringing this action and upon correcting a deficient filing, plaintiffs sought and were granted leave to amend their Complaint to add another company as a defendant. See Rec. Docs. 9, 11, 12, 13, 14. Plaintiffs later amended the Complaint a second time to add another company as a defendant. See Rec. Docs. 42, 44. It is important to note that several named defendants and claims of several plaintiffs were dismissed from the case. See Rec. Docs. 24, 90, 93, 128, 168, 169, 181.

         In May 2017, after hearing oral argument, plaintiffs' motion for class certification was granted. See Rec. Doc. 129. The parties were instructed to confer and submit a joint proposed class notice. After coming to an agreement and with court approval, the class notice was sent out and an additional 16 former employees returned their consent form bringing the total number of plaintiffs to 27. As noted earlier, several plaintiffs were later dismissed from the class.

         On January 10, 2018, the parties jointly reached an agreement on the amount of unpaid overtime wages due with the 17 remaining plaintiffs. However, the parties were unable to resolve whether plaintiffs were entitled to liquidated damages and attorneys' fees. After further briefings from all parties, an opinion was issued awarding $14, 878.64 for unpaid overtime and $7, 439.32 in liquidated damages, with fees and costs to be determined. See Rec. Docs. 179, 184. Thereafter, plaintiffs filed a motion for attorney's fees. See Rec. Doc. 186. Defendants filed a timely response in opposition, wherein they also sought fees on prevailing defenses. See Rec. Doc. 187. Plaintiffs replied. See Rec. Doc. 192.

         Plaintiffs contend that, pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), they are entitled to attorneys' fees in the amount of $59, 010.00 for 201.2 hours of attorney time. See Rec. Doc. 186-1. Plaintiffs argue that they are the prevailing parties in this case because the Court issued a judgment in their favor, entitling them to unpaid overtime wages and liquidated damages. See id. at 8 citing Judgment at Rec. Doc. 185. They further argue the reasonableness of claimed hourly rates and hours, contending no further adjustment of fees is warranted as counsel exercised billing judgment throughout the litigation. Plaintiffs did not document their costs in the instant motion.[2]

         Defendants oppose the amount of attorneys' fees that plaintiffs seek, contending an across-the-board reduction is warranted. See Rec. Doc. 187-2 at 1. Specifically, defendants argue some fees are associated with claims involving eventually-dismissed defendants and eventually-dismissed putative class members. See id. at 3-5. Defendants also argue that they are entitled to attorneys' fees to recover costs expended in litigating against plaintiffs that were eventually dismissed. See id. at 4 (stating they were the prevailing parties as to claims made by plaintiffs who were eventually dismissed).


         A. FLSA Fee Shifting

         In 1938, Congress enacted the FLSA to protect the laboring public from unfair labor practices. See 29 U.S.C. § 202. Pursuant to the FLSA, courts shall “allow a reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by the defendant, and costs of the action” when a judgment is awarded to the plaintiff. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (Emphasis added). Judgment was entered in favor of plaintiffs. See Rec. Doc. 185. Therefore, plaintiffs are entitled to reasonable attorneys' fees and costs to be paid by defendants to plaintiffs. See e.g., Buckhannon Bd. & Care Home, Inc. v. W. Virginia Dep't of Health & Human Res., 532 U.S. 598, 604 (2001) (“[E]nforceable judgments on the merits and court-ordered consent decrees create the “material alteration of the legal relationship of the parties” necessary to permit an award of attorney's fees.”). However, it remains for this Court to determine what fees and costs, if any, are reasonable. Defendants offer no authority under FLSA for recovery of defense fees.

         B. Calculation of Lodestar

         Courts in this Circuit use the lodestar method for determining an appropriate attorney fee award under the FLSA. See Saizan v. Delta Concrete Products Co., Inc., 448 F.3d 795, 799 (5th Cir. 2006). The lodestar method consists of two steps. See Louisiana Power & Light Co. v. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319, 324 (5th Cir. 1995). The first step is to determine the reasonable number of hours expended on the litigation and the reasonable hourly rates for the participating attorneys. See Id. The second step is to multiply the determined hours by the determined rate. See Id. The resulting product is the lodestar. See id.

         The lodestar may be accepted as is or adjusted. See Johnson v. Georgia Highway Exp., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974). There are twelve factors to consider in establishing whether to accept or adjust the lodestar. See Id. Those twelve factors are:

(1) the time and labor involved; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved; (3) the skill requisite to perform the legal services properly; (4) the preclusion of other employment by the attorney due to this case; (5) the customary fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations; (8) the amount involved and results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation. And ability of counsel; (10) the undesirability of the case; (11) the nature and length of the proceedings; and (12) awards in similar cases. See id.

         However, “to the extent that any Johnson factors are subsumed in the lodestar, they should not be reconsidered when determining whether an adjustment to the lodestar is required.” Migis ...

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