Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Dobson v. Timeless Restaurants, Inc.

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

April 11, 2017

CATHERINE DOBSON; AUBREY HOROWITZ; ASHLEY M. McCONNELL; RYAN THEODORE THOMPSON; TOMMIE JEAN HERRING; DEBORAH DARLENE JEFFREYS; CHRISTINA JEAN O'BRIEN; LAURA VALLELIAN; ROSCOE BURTCHELL, III; MICHAEL OSTLER; VALERIE OSTLER; CHRISTOPHER R. BEHEE; JUAN VAZQUEZ; TJAY REID; JOSE A. BARBOZA, JR.; WILLIAM A. SLATTEN, III; AMANDA MELTON; RICHARD SCOTT GOETZ; PARKER A. STEWART; and TONYA COUCH, Plaintiffs,
v.
TIMELESS RESTAURANTS, INC.[1] d/b/a DENNY'S and ANWAR AHMAD, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Sam A. Lindsay United States District Judge

         Before the court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (Doc. 151), filed December 3, 2013. After careful consideration of the motion, response and brief, record, and applicable law, the court grants in part and denies in part Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs.[2]

         I. Background

         This action was brought pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-216. The case was tried before the court and a jury from September 9, 2013, to September 20, 2013. During the trial, the court granted Defendant Anwar Ahmad's motion for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50 and dismissed him from this action. The court also granted Timeless Restaurants, Inc.'s (“Defendant” or “Timeless”) Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law and dismissed all claims of Plaintiffs Tjay Reid; Jose A. Barboza, Jr.; William A. Slatten, III; Amanda Melton; Richard Scott Goetz; Parker A. Stewart; and Tonya Couch. At the conclusion of the trial, although the jury did not find in favor of the thirteen remaining Plaintiffs on each of the claims asserted, it rendered a verdict in which each of the thirteen remaining Plaintiffs was awarded some amount of damages. Specifically, the jury awarded damages to Catherine Dobson; Aubrey Horowitz; Ashley M. McConnell; Ryan T. Thompson; Tommie J. Herring; Deborah D. Jeffreys; Christina J. O'Brien; Laura Vallelian; Roscoe Burtchell, III; Michael Ostler; Valerie Ostler; Christopher R. Behee; and Juan Manuel Vazquez (collectively, the “Trial Plaintiffs”).

         The jury awarded the Trial Plaintiffs unpaid wages as set forth in the chart below, and the court awarded an equal amount in liquidated damages for a total award of $87, 753.96. The amount awarded by the jury to the Trial Plaintiffs was $43, 876.98 and is set forth in the chart below.

Plaintiff

Unpaid Wages Found by the Jury

Liquidated Damages by the Court

Total for Each Plaintiff

Catherine Dobson

$ 1, 046.24

$ 1, 046.24

$ 2, 092.48

Aubrey Horowitz

$ 2, 737.59

$ 2, 737.59

$ 5, 475.18

Juan Manuel Vazquez

$ 3, 366.44

$ 3, 366.44

$ 6, 732.88

Roscoe Burtchell, III

$ 242.42

$ 242.42

$ 484.84

Michael Ostler

$ 3, 478.00

$ 3, 478.00

$ 6, 956.00

Valerie Ostler

$ 2, 049.77

$ 2, 049.77

$ 4, 099.54

Ashley M. McConnell

$ 1, 136.10

$ 1, 136.10

$ 2, 272.20

Ryan T. Thompson

$ 138.87

$ 138.87

$ 277.74

Tommie J. Herring

$19, 252.39

$19, 252.39

$38, 504.78

Deborah D. Jeffreys

$ 4, 840.43

$ 4, 840.43

$ 9, 680.86

Christina J. O'Brien

$ 1, 753.98

$ 1, 753.98

$ 3, 507.96

Laura Vallelian

$ 738.91

$ 738.91

$ 1, 477.82

Christopher Behee

$ 3, 095.84

$ 3, 095.84

$ 6, 191.68

         Plaintiffs had two sets of lawyers for this litigation: the Tran Law Firm and the Glenn Law Firm. Plaintiffs state that the Tran Law Firm's total amount of fees and expenses-which included attorney's fees, legal assistant and paralegal fees, and litigation costs-is $398, 326.90. These are fees and costs incurred by Messrs. Trang Q. Tran and Andrew Iwata. Mr. Tran's hourly rate is $400 per hour, and Mr. Iwata's hourly rate is $350 per hour. They request $125 per hour for legal assistants and paralegals. This amount was calculated as follows: 372 hours and 40 minutes at a rate of $400 per hour for Mr. Tran; 631 hours and 51 minutes at a rate of $350 per hour for Mr. Iwata; and 174 hours and 16 minutes at a rate of $125 per hour for legal assistants and paralegals; and $6, 327.65 for litigation costs. In rounding the figure, the court calculated the total amount to be $398, 828; however, it will accept the Tran Law Firm's amount rounded to the nearest dollar, which yields a total amount of $398, 327.

         Mr. Glenn's hourly rate is $400 per hour. According to the record, Mr. Glenn incurred attorney's fees and litigation costs of $84, 507.11. This is based on 199.25 hours at $400 per hour for an amount of $79, 700, plus $4, 807.11 in litigation costs for a total of $84, 507.11.

         Plaintiffs state that they have voluntarily reduced their fees by 25% because of the seven Plaintiffs that were dismissed from the action. Accordingly, they seek $298, 745.17 (rounded to $298, 745 by the court) in fees on behalf of the Tran Law Firm and $63, 380.33 (rounded to $63, 380 by the court) for the Glenn Law Firm. The Trial Plaintiffs contend that the amounts requested on behalf of both law firms were reasonably and necessarily expended for the successful prosecution of their claims.

         Defendant opposes the amount of attorney's fees and costs requested as being unreasonable and excessive. It contends that the fees should be significantly reduced; however, it does not inform the court of the amount that the fee request should be reduced. Timeless contends that the hours are unreasonable and excessive because Plaintiffs:

(1) have engaged in “block billing, ” which deprives the Court of the ability to review time for reasonableness; (2) seek hours for an unnecessary third trial attorney who did not participate in the trial; (3) seek hours for work relating to claims on which Plaintiff did not prevail; (4) seek unreasonable or unnecessary fees and expenses; (5) submit non recoverable expenses and/or expenses that the Court should disallow at its discretion; and (6) fees that are inaccurate, redundant, duplicative, or have not been subjected to appropriate billing discretion.

Def.'s Resp. to Pls.' Mot. for Atty's Fees 1-2. For these reasons, Defendant contends that the amounts that are not recoverable should be deducted from any amount awarded and that a percentage reduction should be applied to the remaining total as a consequence of failing to exercise billing discretion. Further, Defendant contends that Plaintiffs unreasonably seek to recover full billing rates for time such as travel and clerical tasks, matters it contends that the Fifth Circuit requires to be greatly reduced. Finally, Defendant requests the court to reduce the lodestar because of the results obtained by Plaintiffs.

         II. Applicable Law

         A. The Statute

         Plaintiffs seek attorney's fees pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216. This statute provides in pertinent part as follows: “The court in such action shall, in addition to any judgment awarded to the plaintiff or plaintiffs, allow a reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by the defendant, and costs of the action.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).

         B. Method of Computation under the Lodestar Approach

         As Trial Plaintiffs have obtained an enforceable judgment against Defendant that materially alters the legal relationship between the parties, they are the prevailing parties. Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 111 (1992) (citation omitted). A prevailing party may recover only those fees that are “reasonably expended” on the litigation. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983); Watkins v. Fordice, 7 F.3d 453, 458 (5th Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). A party is not entitled to attorney's fees for the prosecution of an unsuccessful claim unless it involves common facts or derives from related legal theories of another claim that is successfully prosecuted. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434. The determination of a reasonable attorney's fee award ordinarily involves a two-step process.[3] Rutherford v. Harris Cnty., 197 F.3d 173, 192 (5th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). In assessing the reasonableness of attorney's 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. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433; Migis v. Pearle Vision, Inc., 135 F.3d 1041, 1047 (5th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted); Louisiana Power & Light Co. v. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319, 324 (5th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). The fee applicant bears the burden of proof on this issue. Riley v. City of Jackson, Miss., 99 F.3d 757, 760 (5th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted).

         A party requesting attorney's fees must provide the court with adequate information or documentation for it to determine whether the amounts sought were reasonably expended on the litigation. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d at 324 (citations omitted). A court may reduce or reject hours in a fee request “when the supporting documentation is too vague to permit meaningful review.” Id. at 326. In this regard, Fifth Circuit precedent allows a court, in its discretion, to reduce or eliminate hours expended on tasks “vaguely referred to as ‘pleadings, ' ‘documents, ' or ‘correspondence' without stating what was done with greater precision.” Id. at 327 (citation omitted). Likewise, a district court may reduce hours for such vague entries as “legal research, ” trial preparation, and “met with client.” Id. at 326.

         In assessing the amount of attorney's fees to award a prevailing party, the second step requires the court to consider the twelve factors set forth in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir. 1974); Cobb v. Miller, 818 F.2d 1227, 1231 (5th Cir. 1987) (citation omitted).[4] While the court's analysis need not be meticulously detailed, it must articulate and clearly apply the Johnson criteria. Riley, 99 F.3d at 760 (citation omitted). Once the lodestar is computed by multiplying the reasonable number of hours by a reasonable hourly rate, the court may adjust the lodestar upward or downward depending on its analysis of the twelve factors espoused in Johnson. Id. (citations omitted). “[T]he most critical factor” in determining the reasonableness of an attorney's fee award “is the degree of success [or result] obtained.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 436; Farrar, 506 U.S. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.