Riendeau et al v. Apache Carson Partners LP et al

Filing 79

ORDER granting in part plaintiffs' motion for attorney's fees (Doc. 76 ) and awarding fees and costs in the amount of $103,606.00. As amended, IT IS ORDERED GRANTING the joint motion to approve settlement (Doc. 76 ). IT IS FURTHER ORDERED DISMISSING this action with prejudice, with each party to bear its fees and costs except as provided in this order. Signed by Senior Judge Frederick J Martone on 12/19/13. (LSP)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 Bonnie Riendeau, et al., Plaintiffs, 10 11 vs. 12 Apache Carson Partners LP, et al., 13 Defendants. 14 ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) No. CV-12-00988-PHX-FJM ORDER 15 16 We have before us the parties’ joint motion to approve a settlement agreement (doc. 17 76), and the parties’ joint memorandum in support of the reasonableness of attorney’s fees 18 (doc. 78). The proposed settlement agreement provides for a total of $83,000 in damages and 19 $113,000 in attorney’s fees. We requested additional briefing on the reasonableness of the 20 fee request given the disparity between the damages awarded to the plaintiffs’ class and class 21 counsel’s requested compensation. Class counsel contends that the fee request was 22 calculated using the lodestar method, because a “percentage of recovery” calculation would 23 not produce a reasonable fee given the relatively small class recovery. 24 The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides for a mandatory award of reasonable 25 attorney’s fees and costs to encourage private litigants to act as “private attorneys general” 26 to enforce FLSA standards. Although a disparity between the value of the class recovery and 27 class counsel’s compensation raises “at least an inference of unfairness,” In re Bluetooth 28 1 Headset Prods. Liab. Litig., 654 F.3d 935, 938 (9th Cir. 2011), such an award is not per se 2 unreasonable. See City of Riverside v. Rivera, 477 U.S. 561, 574, 106 S. Ct. 2686, 2694 3 (1986) (rejecting the argument that fee awards under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 must be proportionate 4 to the plaintiff’s damages). 5 In applying a lodestar calculation, we consider “the number of hours reasonably 6 expended on the ligation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 7 U.S. 424, 434, 103 S. Ct. 1933, 1939 (1983). Lead counsel Pruitt’s hourly rate is $300.00, 8 associate counsel Hill’s hourly rate is $195.00, and paralegal Fairbanks’ hourly rate is 9 $125.00. We consider these rates to be reasonable in the Phoenix market given the expertise 10 of counsel. 11 Counsel expended 836.5 hours on this case, for total fees of $134,967.00, and 12 $7,114.21 in costs. We think this is excessive. Reviewing the billing detail, we note that an 13 inordinate number of hours was spent by paralegal Fairbanks drafting the complaint, 14 effecting service of process, drafting discovery requests and initial disclosures, drafting the 15 motion for class certification and mediation memorandum, and preparing a spreadsheet of 16 damages. Although plaintiffs will receive all or more than their damage estimates, thereby 17 obtaining excellent results, lawyers have a professional obligation to consider the amount of 18 a potential recovery in relation to the amount of time and effort expended on a case. The 19 expenditure of 836.5 hours of legal work on a relatively simple case that was settled before 20 dispositive motions were filed is excessive. 21 Therefore, we reduce by half the number of hours billed by paralegal Fairbanks, for 22 a reduction of $38,475.00. We note that class counsel has already agreed to reduce their fee 23 request by $29,081.00. Therefore, we reduce the requested fees by an additional $9,394.00. 24 IT IS ORDERED GRANTING IN PART plaintiffs’ motion for attorney’s fees (doc. 25 76) and awarding fees and costs in the amount of $103,606.00. As amended, IT IS 26 ORDERED GRANTING the joint motion to approve settlement (doc. 76). It is further 27 28 -2- 1 ORDERED DISMISSING this action with prejudice, with each party to bear its fees and 2 costs except as provided in this order. 3 DATED this 19th day of December, 2013. 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -3-

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