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Shattuck v. Heating

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 16, 2019

RYLAND SHATTUCK, Plaintiff,
v.
HARMON HEATING and AIR CONDITIONING, LLC, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GOLDBERG, J.

         Presently before me is Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney's Fees, requesting approximately $29, 829.38 in fees and costs, filed in conjunction with a judgment entered in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of $7, 817.83.

         This action arises out of Defendants' alleged failure to pay Plaintiff promised wages, including overtime wages, bonuses, benefits, and expense reimbursements. On April 10, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. (“FLSA”), the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, 43 P.S. § 333.101, et seq., and the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, 43 P.S. § 260.1, et seq., as well as breach of contract and unjust enrichment. On December 17, 2018, judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of $7, 817.83.

         The Motion before me specifically requests $29, 407.50 in attorney's fees and $421.88 in costs, for a total of $29, 829.38. Raising several objections, Defendants urge that these requests should be drastically reduced to $4, 000 in attorney's fees. While I agree that some fees should be reduced, the Motion will be substantially granted. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff will be awarded $28, 695.00 in attorney's fees and $421.88 in costs.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         The FLSA provides that the prevailing party is entitled to “reasonable attorney's fees” and “costs of the action.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). The district court has the discretion to award reasonable attorney's fees. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983). The district court is afforded high discretion in determining the proper amount of the award. Bell v. United Princeton Prop., Inc., 844 F.2d 713, 721 (3d Cir. 1989).

         The standard for calculating a proper award for attorney's fees is the lodestar method. “The lodestar formula multiplies the reasonable number of hours expended by a reasonable hourly rate.” Squires Golf Club v. Bank of America, No. 10-6734, 2011 WL 1050426, at *1 (E.D. Pa., Mar. 22, 2011) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). In reviewing an award of reasonable attorney's fees, “it is necessary that the Court ‘go line, by line, by line' through the billing records supporting the fee request.” Id. (citing Evans v. Port Auth. Of N.Y. & N.J. 273 F.3d 346, 362 (3d Cir. 2001)). “The lodestar is presumed to be the reasonable fee.” Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892 F.2d 1177, 1183 (3d Cir. 1990) (citing Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 897 (1984)). The party seeking attorney's fees has the burden to prove that its request for attorney's fees is reasonable. Id. “To meet its burden, the fee petitioner must ‘submit evidence supporting the hours worked and rates claimed.'” Id. (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)).

         “However, the district court has the discretion to make certain adjustments to the lodestar” and the party seeking any such adjustment “has the burden of proving that an adjustment is necessary.” Id. “The court also can deduct hours when the fee petition inadequately documents the hours claimed.” Id. Duplicative, redundant or excessive fees should not be rewarded. Interfaith Community Org. v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc., 426 F.3d 694 (3d Cir 2005).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Untimeliness of Objections

         Plaintiff argues that I should not consider Defendants' objections because they were not timely filed. (Reply 4-5, ECF No. 19.) I held argument on Plaintiff's Motion, wherein Defense Counsel explained that he applied the state filing rule instead of the federal rule. (Hr'g Tr., 6:20- 7:15, ECF No. 23.) During the hearing, I found that this explanation was excusable pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b). (Id.) Accordingly, Plaintiff's argument that the fee petition should be granted on this ground is overruled.

         B. Number of Hours Expended

         In the Motion for Attorney's Fees, Plaintiff's Counsel submitted that she expended 78.42 hours litigating this case, for a total of $29, 407.50. (Pl.'s Mot. for Att'y's Fees ¶ 7, ECF No. 12.) In support, Plaintiff submitted timesheets with approximately forty entries. (Id. Ex. B.) Defendants have objected to a significant number of these time entries, asserting that the proper amount billed should be reduced to $3, 065.53. (Resp. 2-3, ECF No. 13.)

         I have reviewed the forty timesheet entries line by line and Defendants' objections. I will address the parties' disputes through an analysis of ...


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