Wright v. Klassic Kar Wash, L.L.C. et al
ORDER re: 28 Fee Petition. The court finds that Wright is entitled to anaward of attorneys' fees in the amount of $8,425.00 and costs in the amount of$398.00, for a total award of $8,823.00. Signed by Judge Callie V. S. Granade on 1/9/2013. (copy to deft) (mab)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
Civil Action No. 11-0658-CG-B
This matter is before the court on the Plaintiff, Chad Wright’s (“Wright’s”)
uncontested motion for attorneys’ fees and costs. (Doc. 28).
Wright filed a complaint against the defendant, Pete Holifield, on November
23, 2011, alleging various violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §
201 et. seq. (“FLSA”). On August 17, 2012, this court entered an Entry of Default
against Holifield (Doc. 22), and later granted Wright’s motion for default judgment
on November 26, 2012. (Doc. 27). Wright subsequently filed this unopposed motion
for attorneys’ fees and costs on December 11, 2012. (Doc. 28).
Wright seeks $8,425.00 in attorneys’ fees and $590.85 in costs. Id. He argues
that, pursuant to §216(b) of the FLSA, “an award of attorneys’ fees and costs to a
prevailing plaintiff in an FLSA action is mandatory.” (Doc. 28 at 1-2) (citing
Kreager v. Solomon & Flanagan, P.A., 775 F.2d 1541, 1542 (11th Cir. 1987)). In
support of his motion, Wright has submitted the affidavit of his attorney, Banks
Ladd (Doc. 28-1), as well contemporaneous records of the time Ladd and his
associates spent, the rates charged, and the specific work performed in connection
with Wright’s claim against Holifield. (Doc. 28-2). Additionally, Wright has
submitted the affidavit of Henry Brewster, an attorney practicing in Mobile,
Alabama, who claims to be familiar with the reasonable market rates for attorneys
pursuing FLSA claims. (Doc. 28-4).
Wright seeks costs in the amount of $590.85, and has submitted an itemized
list of costs in support of its motion. (Doc. 28, p. 2).
“In the exercise of sound discretion, trial courts are accorded great latitude in
ascertaining taxable costs.” Loughan v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 749 F.2d 1519,
1526 (11th Cir. 1985) (citing United States v. Kolesar, 313 F.2d 835 (5th Cir. 1963)).
However, in exercising its discretion to tax costs, absent other explicit statutory
authorization, federal courts are limited to those costs specifically enumerated in 28
U.S.C. § 1920. Crawford Fitting Co. v. J. T. Gibbons, Inc., 482 U.S. 437, 445 (1987).
The word “costs” is not synonymous with “expense.” Eagle Insurance Co. v.
Johnson, 982 F.Supp. 1456, 1458 (M.D. Ala. 1997). “[E]xpense includes all the
expenditures actually made by a litigant in connection with the lawsuit.” Id.
(citations omitted). “[A] a district court may not award other costs or exceed the
amounts provided in § 1920 without explicit authorization in another statutory
provision.” Id. (citations omitted). Thus, the costs will almost always be less than
the total expenses associated with the litigation. Id. (citations omitted).
The court's power to tax costs is grounded in part in Rule 54(d)(1) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which states: “Unless a federal statute, these
rules, or a court order provides otherwise, costs - other than attorney's fees - should
be allowed to the prevailing party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1). Rule 54(d) gives rise to a
presumption that costs will be awarded, and the party opposing the award must
overcome this presumption. Manor Healthcare Corp. v. Lomelo, 929 F.2d 633, 639
(11th Cir. 1991); see also Monelus v. Tocodrian, Inc., 609 F.Supp.2d 1328, 1333
(S.D. Fla. 2009) (“When challenging whether costs are taxable, the losing party
bears the burden of demonstrating that a cost is not taxable[.]”). Section 1920 of
Title 28 authorizes a judge or clerk of court to tax six items as costs:
Fees of the clerk and marshal;
Fees for printed or electronically recorded transcripts
necessarily obtained for use in the case;
Fees and disbursements for printing and witnesses;
Fees for exemplification and costs of making copies of any
materials where the copies are necessarily obtained for use in
Docket fees under section 1923 of this title;
Compensation of court appointed experts, compensation of
interpreters, and salaries, fees, expenses, and costs of special
interpretation services under section 1828 of this title.
28 U.S.C. § 1920. A court may not award costs that exceed those permitted
by § 1920. See Glenn v. Gen. Motors Corp., 841 F.2d 1567, 1575 (11th Cir. 1988).
Upon review of Wright’s itemized list of costs, the court finds that the only
costs which are taxable under § 1920 are: (1) the $350.00 filing fee Wright paid
when he filed his complaint; and (2) $48.00 in copying costs, which, given the fact
that this motion is unopposed, the court presumes was incurred for materials
“necessarily obtained for use in the case.” See Doc. 28, p. 2. Accordingly, Vision’s
motion is GRANTED IN PART, with respect to costs, in the amount of $398.00.
III. ATTORNEYS’ FEES
The starting point in setting any attorney's fee is determining the “lodestar”
figure — that is, the product of the number of hours reasonably expended to
prosecute the lawsuit multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate for work performed by
similarly-situated attorneys in the community. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424,
433 (1983); see also, Norman v. Housing Authority of the City of Montgomery, 836
F.2d 1292, 1299 (11th Cir. 1988). The fee applicant bears the burden of
“establishing entitlement and documenting the appropriate hours and hourly rates.”
Norman, 836 F.2d at 1303. After calculating the lodestar fee, the court should then
proceed with an analysis of whether any portion of this fee should be adjusted
upwards or downwards. See Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for
Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546, 565–66 (1986); see also Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley
Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 483 U.S. 711 (1987); Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433–34.
Where the rates or hours claimed seem excessive or lack the appropriate
documentation, a court may calculate the award based on its own experience,
knowledge, and observations. Norman, 836 F.2d at 1299.
In making the above determinations, the court is guided by the 12 factors set
out in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717–19 (5th Cir.
1974). See Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87, 91–92 (1989); Hensley, 461 U.S. at
434 n. 9. These factors are: (1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and
difficulty of the questions; (3) the skill required to perform the legal services
properly; (4) the preclusion of other employment by the attorney due to acceptance
of the case; (5) the customary fee in the community; (6) whether the fee is fixed or
contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by the client or 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. These Johnson factors may “be considered in terms of their influence on the
lodestar amount.” Norman, 836 F.2d at 1299.
(1) Reasonable Rate
As the party requesting fees, Wright has the burden of supplying the court
with specific and detailed evidence from which the court can determine the
reasonable hourly rate for the work performed by his attorney and paralegals. Am.
Civil Liberties Union of Ga. v. Barnes, 168 F.3d 423, 427 (11th Cir. 1999) (citing
Norman, 836 F.2d at 1303). The Eleventh Circuit has instructed that a reasonable
hourly rate is “the prevailing market rate in the relevant legal community for
similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skills, experience, and
reputation.” Norman, 836 F.2d at 1299. In this case, the relevant legal community
is Mobile, Alabama. See Barnes, 168 F.3d at 437 (“[T]he ‘relevant market’ for
purposes of determining the reasonable hourly rate for an attorney's services is the
place where the case is filed.” (citation and quotation marks omitted)).
As stated above, Wright has submitted an affidavit from his attorney, Banks
Ladd, which sets forth the hourly rate for Ladd ($250) and his associates working
on the case ($150). (Doc. 28 at 2). Wright has also submitted a detailed summary
report of hours worked, featuring detailed descriptions of the work performed. (Doc.
Based on the court’s experience, knowledge, and observations, as well as a
review of prior awards, the court finds that the $250 hourly rate for Ladd and the
$150 hourly rate for associates Stacie Vitello and Stephanie Booth are reasonable.
Compare Norman v. Alorica, Inc., 2012 WL 5452196, *4 (S.D. Ala. Nov. 7, 2012)
(finding that, in an FLSA case, a rate of $250 per hour was reasonable for Ladd and
$150 per hour was reasonable for Vitello and Booth).
(2) Hours Reasonably Expended
In determining whether the number of hours expended are reasonable, the
court should not include any hours which are “excessive, redundant or otherwise
unnecessary.” Norman, 836 F.2d at 1301. When awarding an attorney’s fee, the
“[c]ourts are not authorized to be generous with the money of others, and it is as
much the duty of courts to see that excessive fees and expenses are not awarded as
it is to see that an adequate amount is awarded.” Barnes, 168 F.3d at 428. The
court will not permit a party to recover fees for hours that are excessive, redundant,
or unnecessary, i.e., hours “that would be unreasonable to bill to a client and
therefore to one’s adversary irrespective of the skill, reputation or experience of
counsel.” Norman, 836 F.2d at 1301. (emphasis omitted).
Wright seeks to recover for a total of 44.3 hours of time from November 2011
through December 2012, which are divided as follows: 17.8 hours incurred by Ladd,
12.1 hours incurred by Vitello, and 14.4 hours incurred by Booth. (Doc. 28-1).
These hours appear to be, based upon the detailed descriptions provided in the
summary report and the court’s experience, knowledge and observation, reasonable
for the amount of work involved in prosecuting an FLSA action which included a
complaint, amended complaint, multiple entries of default, and a motion for default
judgment. These hours are therefore allowed.
(3) Lodestar Calculation
The lodestar calculation for Ladd is 17.8 hours x $250 per hour = $4,450.00.
For Vitello and Booth, the lodestar calculation is 26.5 hours x $150 per hour =
$3,975.00. The total lodestar amount is $8,425.00.
For the reasons stated above, the court finds that Wright is entitled to an
award of attorneys’ fees in the amount of $8,425.00 and costs in the amount of
$398.00, for a total award of $8,823.00.
DONE and ORDERED this 9th day of January, 2013.
/s/ Callie V.S. Granade
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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