United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
AMANDA HAYS, Individually and on Behalf of Others Similarly Situated, PLAINTIFF
FRENCH QUARTER PARTNERS, LLC, Individually and d/b/a FRENCH QUARTER; DALE KLOSS a/k/a DUKE KLOSS, Individually and d/b/a FRENCH QUARTER, DEFENDANTS
O. Hickey, United States District
the Court is Plaintiff Amanda Hays' Motion for
Attorneys' Fees and Costs (ECF No. 37). Defendants have
responded. (ECF No. 39). Plaintiff has replied. (ECF No. 41).
The Court finds this matter ripe for consideration.
29, 2015, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants alleging
violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 207 et seq.,
and the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act (“AMWA”), Ark.
Code Ann. § 11-4-211, et seq. (ECF No. 1). The
Complaint sought the creation of a collective action pursuant
to Section 216 of the FLSA, as well as a class action
pursuant to the AMWA and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.
On November 17, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Acceptance
of Offer of Judgment pursuant to Rule 68 of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 23). Pursuant to Plaintiff's
acceptance of the offer of judgment from Defendants, the
Court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff against
Defendants in the amount of $16, 940.00. (ECF No. 36).
then filed the instant motion requesting approval of her
attorneys' fees pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).
Specifically, Plaintiff seeks an order from the Court
awarding $13, 555.50 for attorneys' fees and costs. In
addition, Plaintiff submitted an itemized list of services
billed by her attorneys in this matter and a declaration
signed by Attorney Josh Sanford (“Sanford”). (ECF
Nos. 37-1 and 37-2).
records that accompany Plaintiff's motion indicate that
Plaintiff initially incurred attorneys' fees in the
amount of $17, 893.50. However, Plaintiff asserts that she is
only requesting an award for $13, 031.50 in attorneys'
fees “[a]fter subtracting fees incurred performing
duplicative or unnecessary work.” (ECF No. 38, p. 5). Plaintiff
states that the $13, 031.50 total includes: Attorney Josh
Sanford's (“Sanford”) fees totaling $5,
365.00 for 18.5 hours at an hourly rate of $290.00; Attorney
Steve Rauls' (“Rauls”) fees totaling $4,
938.75 for 21.95 hours at an hourly rate of $225.00; Attorney
Maryna Jackson's (“Jackson”) fees totaling
$2, 328.75 for 10.35 hours at an hourly rate of $225.00;
“Other Attorneys'” fees totaling $363.00 for
2.1 hours at a blended rate of 172.86; and staff fees
totaling $36.00 for 0.6 hours at an hourly rate of $60.00.
Id. In addition, Plaintiff requests reimbursement of
$524.00 in costs. Id.
filed a response to the motion and make a host of objections
to Plaintiff's requested fee. Specifically, Defendants
ask the Court to reject Sanford's fee request as
unreasonable due to a lack of evidence that $290 per hour is
an ordinary rate or prevailing market rate for similar work
in the community. In addition, Defendants argue that
Plaintiff's request for attorneys' fees for work
performed after the offer of judgment should be denied.
Defendants also argue that no attorneys' fees should be
awarded, or in the alternative substantially reduced, for
work related to class certification because neither class
materialized and only one plaintiff was ever a party to the
lawsuit. Defendants cite additional reasons for reducing the
amount of attorneys' fees such as duplicative tasks,
excessive intra-firm communication, administrative tasks that
could have been completed in a more economical manner by
support staff, as well as the “fact that counsel did
very little original drafting” in the case. (ECF No.
39, pp. 3-4).
action brought pursuant to the FLSA, a prevailing party is
entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys' fees and
costs to be paid by the defendant. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).
Plaintiff is accordingly entitled to an award of
attorneys' fees in this matter. However, the amount of
such an award is left to the discretion of the Court.
Fegly v. Higgins, 19 F.3d 1126, 1134 (6th Cir.
determining the reasonableness of an attorneys' fee
award, a “district court [is] required to first
calculate a lodestar, by multiplying the number of hours
reasonably expended on litigation by a reasonable hourly
rate, and to then consider whether the lodestar amount should
be reduced, based on appropriate considerations.”
Jones v. RK Enterprises of Blytheville, Inc., 632
F.App'x 306, 307 (8th Cir. 2016) (citing Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433-34 (1983)). The United
States Supreme Court has set forth twelve factors to be
considered when making a lodestar determination: (1) time and
labor required; (2) novelty and difficulty of the questions;
(3) skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
(4) preclusion of other employment, due to acceptance of
case; (5) the customary fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed or
contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by the client or the
circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the results
obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the
attorneys; (10) the undesirability of the case; (11) the
nature and length of the professional relationship with the
client; and (12) awards in similar cases. Hensley,
461 U.S. at 430 n.3.
Reasonable Hourly Rate
Defendants contend that the hourly rate of $290 for work
performed by Sanford is unreasonable. In support of this
contention, Defendants point to the Court's award of
attorneys' fees in Whitworth v. French, No.
6:13-cv-06003 (W.D. Ark. Sept. 19, 2014) in which the Court
found Sanford's prior hourly rate of $275.00 to be
reasonable. As noted above, Sanford submitted an affidavit
that informs the Court of his prior experience handling wage
and hour litigation throughout the country. The affidavit
further explains that Sanford's requested hourly rate is
consistent with hourly rates of other attorneys with similar
experience and qualifications in the Western District of
Arkansas. Additionally, previous opinions and orders within
the Western District have found that Sanford's requested
rate is within the range of reasonableness for similar work
performed by attorneys of similar qualifications in the area.
See Burchell v. Green Cab Co., Inc., No.
5:15-cv-05076, 2016 WL 894825, at *2 (W.D. Ark. Mar. 8,
2016). In light of the foregoing considerations, the Court
finds that Sanford's requested hourly rate of $290 is
reasonable and appropriate.
Defendants raise numerous objections to demonstrate that
Plaintiff's attorneys expended an unreasonable number of
hours in this matter. First, Defendants contend that
Plaintiff's claims for attorneys' fees for work
performed after the date of the Rule 68 offer of judgment
should be denied. Defendants cite Burchell in
support of the proposition ...