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Jones v. New Orleans Regional Physician Hospital Organization, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 12, 2019


         SECTION “A” (3)



         Before the Court is the Motion to Fix Attorneys' Fees Pursuant to the August 29, 2019 Order [Doc. #98] filed by defendant New Orleans Regional Physician Hospital Organization (“Peoples Health”). Plaintiffs have filed no opposition to the motion. Having reviewed the pleadings and the case law, the Court rules as follows.

         I. Background

         This motion arises in a lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Plaintiffs allege that Peoples Health misclassified them as exempt and seek to recover overtime pay, liquidated damages, and attorneys' fees.

         Peoples Health served discovery requests on plaintiffs that sought production of bank checking accounts and credit card statements for specified periods during which plaintiffs claim they worked overtime. Plaintiffs objected to the request, and Peoples Health filed a motion to compel. [Doc. #66]. On July 16, 2019, this Court granted the motion as unopposed and ordered plaintiffs to produce the documents within ten days of the date of the order. [Doc. #74].

         Plaintiffs failed to comply with this Court's order, necessitating the filing of a motion for contempt [Doc. #80]. The motion again sought production of the records and also sanctions against plaintiffs for failure to comply with this Court's order on the motion to compel. Plaintiffs filed an opposition, improperly asking the Court to reconsider its earlier order. [Doc. #87]. On August 29, 2019, this Court granted in part the motion for contempt, again ordering plaintiffs to produce the requested documents and awarding Peoples Health its “attorneys' fees and costs for the pleadings that they have filed to seek the relief that it requires.” [Doc. 95 at p. 4].

         In this motion, Peoples Health maintains that to this date, plaintiffs have yet to produce the requested documents.[1] Peoples Health thus seeks $3, 384.50 in attorneys' fees and costs expended on the motion to compel and the motion for contempt that it was forced to file given plaintiffs' failure to comply with their discovery obligations.

         On November 26, 2019, the District Court granted summary judgment in this lawsuit to Peoples Health [Doc. #107] and entered judgment in its favor the following day. [Doc. #108]. That judgment, however, does not divest this Court of this ancillary motion for attorneys' fees. Kira, Inc. v. All Star Maint., Inc., 294 Fed.Appx. 139, 141 (5th Cir. 2008) (citing Creations Unlimited, Inc. v. McCain, 112 F.3d 814, 816-17 (5th Cir. 1997) (“A district court has jurisdiction to rule on a motion for ancillary attorneys' fees even after the filing of a notice of appeal with respect to the underlying claims”)).

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Lodestar Method

         The United States Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit have oft-repeated that a request for attorneys' fees should not spawn major ancillary litigation. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983); Associated Builders & Contractors of La., Inc. v. Orleans Parish School Bd., 919 F.2d 374, 379 (5th Cir. 1990). A court's discretion in fashioning a reasonable attorney's fee is broad and reviewable only for an abuse of discretion, i.e., it will not be reversed unless there is strong evidence that it is excessive or inadequate, or the amount chosen is clearly erroneous. Hopwood v. State of Tex., 236 F.3d 256, 277, n.79 (5th Cir. 2000); Hensley, 461 U.S. at 436-37.

         To determine a reasonable fee, the court must provide a concise but clear explanation of its reasons for the fee award, making subsidiary factual determinations regarding whether the requested hourly rate is reasonable, and whether the tasks reported by counsel were duplicative, unnecessary, or unrelated to the purposes of the lawsuit. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437-39; Associated Builders & Contractors, 919 F.2d at 379. The Fifth Circuit has noted that its “concern is not that a complete litany be given, but that the findings be complete enough to assume a review which can determine whether the court has used proper factual criteria in exercising its discretion to fix just compensation.” Brantley v. Surles, 804 F.2d 321, 325-26 (5th Cir. 1986).

         In assessing the reasonableness of attorneys' fees, the court must first determine the "lodestar" by multiplying the reasonable number of hours expended and the reasonable hourly rate for each participating attorney. See Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433; Green v. Administrators of the Tulane Educ. Fund, 284 F.3d 642, 661 (5th Cir. 2002); Migis v. Pearle Vision, Inc., 135 F.2d 1041, 1047 (5th Cir. 1998); La. Power & Light Co. v. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319, 324 (5th Cir. 1995). The fee applicant bears the burden of proof on this issue. Se ...

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