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McDaniel v. Family Sleep Diagnostics, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

March 21, 2017

DELICIA McDANIEL, individually and on Behalf of Others Similarly Situated PLAINTIFF
v.
FAMILY SLEEP DIAGNOSTICS, INC., ERIC STENGLE, and KAY VADEN DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KEITH STARRETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Attorney's Fees [116] filed by Plaintiff Delicia McDaniel. After considering the submissions of the parties, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that this motion is well taken and should be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 4, 2013, Plaintiff Delicia McDaniel (“Plaintiff”) filed this collective action against Defendants Family Sleep Diagnostics, Inc. (“Family Sleep”), Eric Stengle, and Kay Vaden (collectively “Defendants”), under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Plaintiff brought claims of denial of overtime pay on behalf of herself and the class of employees she represents, and a claim for retaliation on her own behalf. On February 10, 2017, parties filed their Joint Motion for Approval of Settlement [112], which was subsequently granted by the Court. (See Order [114].) As part of their agreement, parties agreed to submit the issue of attorney's fees to the Court.

         In the Motion for Attorney's Fees [116], Plaintiff's counsel initially submitted that he had worked 306.85 hours on this case and that his fee was $525.00 an hour. Consequently, he calculated his reasonable fees at $161, 096.25. Additionally, he calculated the costs and expenses incurred at $10, 685.57. In his Reply [124], he adjusted his reasonable fees to $177, 423.75, deducting a small amount of hours in concession to Defendants' response and adding 37.60 hours for the preparing of the Reply [124].

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         The FLSA provides for an award of reasonable attorney's fees and costs to a prevailing plaintiff. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Parties do not dispute that Plaintiff is a prevailing plaintiff in this action and is therefore entitled to reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

         The Fifth Circuit “appl[ies] a two-step method for determining a reasonable attorney's fee award.” Combs v. City of Huntington, Tex., 829 F.3d 388, 391 (5th Cir. 2016) (citing Jimenez v. Wood Cnty., 621 F.3d 373, 379 (5th Cir. 2010), on reh'g en banc, 660 F.3d 841 (5th Cir. 2011)). First, the Court calculates the lodestar, “which is equal to the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by the prevailing hourly rate in the community for similar work.” Id. at 392. In doing so, the Court “should exclude all time that is excessive, duplicative, or inadequately documented.” Id. “Though the lodestar is presume reasonable, ” the Court is allowed to increase or decrease the award amount based on the twelve factors listed in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc. Id.

         B. Hours Reasonably Expended

         In their Response [117], Defendants invite the Court to examine several litigation decisions made by Plaintiff's counsel in his management of this case. Going over these issues would in effect “result in a second major litigation” of the litigation, which the Supreme Court has cautioned against. See Fox v. Vice, 563 U.S. 826, 838, 131 S.Ct. 2205, 180 L.Ed.2d 45 (2011) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 24, 437, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983)) (“[T]he determination of fees ‘should not result in a second major litigation.'”). Though Plaintiff is required to “submit appropriate documentation to meet the burden of establishing entitlement to an award, ” the Court is not a “green-eyeshade accountant[].” Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted). Instead, the Court's goal should be to “do rough justice, not to achieve auditing perfection.” Id.

         Plaintiff's counsel has submitted detailed documentation of the hours he claims was put into this case. (See Time Record Sheet [116-7].) This case was filed in September 2013 and a settlement agreement was approved by the Court in February 2017. Even taking into account that the settlement was actually reached on December 30, 2016, (see Reply [124] at p. 6), the case was pending for approximately 38 months. The final total of the hours billed on this case, including the agreed write-offs and not including the time preparing the Reply [124], is 300.35 hours. (See Appendix [124-1] at p. 134.) This translates to an average of less than 8 hours per month, which the Court finds to be reasonable. See Young v. Sea Horse Venture IV, LLC, No. 3:07-CV-1818-M, 2009 WL 614823, at *1 (N.D. Tex. March 10, 2009) (finding 11 hours worked per month to be reasonable).

         The Court does not, however, find that the 37.60 hours spent preparing the Reply [124] to be reasonable. First, the Court would note that there is inadequate documentation for this figure. There have been no details offered in support of these hours, including basic details such as the dates these hours were worked. Second, these hours appear to be excessive, particularly in light of the fact that less than 10 hours seemed to have been spent in researching the initial motion. (See Appendix [124-1] at p. 134.) Furthermore, a perusal of the billing documentation shows that from May 20, 2016, the date Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss [78], to September 20, 2016, the date the Court entered its Order [108] denying Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [94] and granting Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [97], Plaintiff's counsel billed 30.4 hours in total. (See Time Record Sheet [116-7] at pp. 9-11; Appendix [124-1] at pp. 129-31.) The idea that counsel expended more effort on a single reply brief in support of his own attorney's fees than he did on all of his filings in relation to all of the dispositive motions in this case appears excessive to the Court. Therefore, because the ...


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