Lipenga v. Kambalame

Filing 30

MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge George Jarrod Hazel on 6/8/2017. (aos, Deputy Clerk)

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IN TilE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT fOR THE DISTRICT Of MARYLAND SOllthem Dil'isio/l fAINESS B. L1PENGA, • ,~ ,•.•• cO * I'laintiff, * v. Case No.: G.III-1-t-3980 * .IANE N. KAMBALAi\lE, * Defendant. * * * * * * * * * MEMORANDUM * * U,S,c. of the Trarticking Victims Protcction ~~ 15S I e/ sell .. thc Fair Labor Standards Maryland common Rcauthorization Act ("FLSA"), punitivc damages. Janc Kambalamc 9. 2016 and awardcd Plaintiff$I.! Now pcnding beft)J'e thc Court is Plaintiffs for Act ('TVPRA"), 29 U.S.c. law causcs of action, Thc Court cntcrcd dc filllIt judgmcnt on Novcmbcr * 1S ~ 206(1)( I). thc Md. Codc. Lab & Empl. ~~ 3-413.3.415. Wagc and I lour Law ("MWIIL"). Kambalamc * OPINION Plaintiff Faincss Lipcnga brought this action against Defendant alleged violations * and othcr against Dcfendant 0 1.345.20 in compensatory Motion It)r Attorncys' and Fces. ECF No, 26. No hcaring is ncecssary, Loc, R. 105,6 (D, Md, July I. 2(16). For the following Plaintitrs Fees. in thc amount 01'$122.327.50. is grantcd. I. Motion for Attorncys' rcasons. BACKGROUND Plaintifflilcd Alicr Dcfendant her initial complaint against Defendant failcd to answcr or othcrwisc on Dcccmbcr 19.2014. ECF No. I. dcfend in the mattcr. Ms, Lipenga movcdftl!" an entry of delilllit on January 28. 2016. which thc Clcrk cntcrcd on March 4. 2016. ECF No, 20: ECF No. 21, The Court issucd its Mcmorandum Opinion and Ordcr granting Plaintiffs Motion lilr Delilllit Judgment. ECr- No. 23. on November 9. 2016. ECF No. 24. As PlaintilThad requested "reasonable attorneys' ICes" in her Motion. ECF No. 23-1 at 38. but had not suhmitted documentation as to the appropriate amount. the Court requested supplemental briefing on the issue. See ECF No. 25. II. STANDARD OF REVIEW Ms. Lipenga is entitled to attorneys' Ices under the the TVPRA. FLSA. and MWIIL. See 18 U.S.c. * 1595 ("An individual who is a victim of a violation of this ehapter may bring a civil 'let ion against the perpetrator ... and may recover damages and reasonable attorneys' tees"): 29 U.s.c. * 216(b): Bumle.\' 1". Short. 730 F.2d 136. 141 (4th Cir. 1984) ("The payment of attorney's ICes 10 employees prevailing in FLSA cases is mandatory"): Md. Code. Lab. & Empl. * 3-427(d)( I )(iii). To recover attorneys' fees and eosts. a plaintilTmust be a "prevailing party:' a threshold question for whieh the Court accords a generous liHinulation. See 111.'11.1'11.'.1' \'. Eckerhart. 461 U.S. 424. 433 (1983). This Court entered default judgment against Delendant Kambalame in this matter: therefore. Ms. Lipenga is a "prevailing party" entitled to reasonable attorneys' Ices. The most uselhl starting point li1l" establishing the proper amount of an award is the "lodestar:' or ..the number of hours reasonably expended. multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate:' III.'IISle.\'. 461 U.S. at433: see also RUlli Creek Coal Sales, /I1C. \'. Caper/ol1. 31 F.3d 169. 174 (4th Cir. 1994). The court shall adjust the number of hours to delete duplicative or unrelated hours. and the number of hours must be reasonable and represent the product of "billing judgment:' RUlli Creek Coal Sales. 31 F.3d at 175 (citing lIellsle.\'. 461 U.S. at 437). In assessing the overall reasonableness of the lodestar. the court may also consider the twelve !ilctors set liHth in.lohllsoll \', Georgia / fig/HI'lIYErl'ress, Johnson 488 F,2d 714. 717-19 /IIL',. (5th Cir. 1974) ("'the 11lCtors"'). speeilieally: (I) The time and labor required: (2) The novelty and diflieulty oCthe questions raised: (3) The skill requisite to perform the legal serviccs properly: (4) The preclusion of employment by the allorney duc to acceptance oCthc case: (5) Thc customary Cee: (6) Whether the fee is Iixed 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 oCthe allorneys: (10) The undesirability oCthe case: (I I) The nature and length of the professional rclationship between the allorney and the client: and (12) Allorney"s Ice awards in similar cases, See RUlli Creek Coal Sales. 31 F.3d at 175. The party seeking an award oC allorney' s ICes "'bears the burden of establishing entitlement to an award and documenting /lemley.461 explaining the appropriate U,S, at 437, Thc party challenging its objections the requested 2288.2013 and hourly rates," award "'bears the burden oC with sul1icient detail and specifie reference to the plaintiffs rccords to allow the court to evaluate those challenges reeords searching hours expended lor unnecessary charges," without itselfpolrling Nelsoll \', A&/I Molors, /IIL' .• over the time Civil No. JKS 12- WL 388991. at *3 (D. Md. Jan. 30. 2(13) (citing Rode \'. Del/arcil'rele. 892 F.2d 1177. 1183 (3d Cir. 1990», Here. Plaintiff submits her Motion and supporting but Defendant III. time has not responded. documentation. I ANALYSIS According Allorneys' to Plaintilrs Fees. 10 allorneys Memorandum and 5 assisting this casc over a two-and-a-haICyear and doeumentation stafTmembers accompanying completed the Motion Cor 498.00 hours of work on period. ECF No. 29 at 5, PlaintiCfhas provided detailed 1 The Court received a letter from Ms. Kambalamc's counsel in Zimbabwe. Aurthuf Gurira. on December 9, 2016. See ECF No. 28. HO\\'cvcr. because a member of the barofthis C01ll1 had not signed the doculllent. see Lol:. R. 101.1 and 102.1. the letter was returned to Mr. Gurira. It!. Defendant has not filed anything tlmher ill this actioll. , J information breaking these hours down by individual. litigation phase. date and time. and narrative description - in accordance with Loc. R. 109.2 and Appendix B of the Local Rules. Upon review of the billing records. attached at ECF No. 29-1 at 1-32. the Court tinds that the hours expendcd were reasonable. Although the case was ultimately uncontested. the Complaint was detailed and involved challenging issues of lact and law. The hours spent preparing and litigating the I.ipenga case were all related to a common legal theory and sct of tilcts. and Plaintiff ultimately achieved a high degree of success on her elaims against Defendant Kambalame. See Hensley. 461 U.S. at435 (noting that "fwJhere a plaintilThas obtained excellent results. [her] attorney should recover a fully compensatory fcc. Normally this will encompass all hours reasonably expended on the litigation."). PlaintitTalso requests reasonable rates lill"li1lu1een of the lilieen individuals who worked on this matter. See Blum I'. Slenson. 465 U.S. 886. 890 n.l I (1984) (noting that fee appl ieant should demonstrate that the requested rates are in line with those lawyers prevailing in the community): Beyond ,\)'.1 .. Inc. I'. World A\'e. USA. LLe. No, PJM-08-nl. 20 II WL 3419565 at *3 (D. Md. Aug. 11,2011) (noting that courts in this jurisdiction rely upon Appendix B for determining reasonableness of lees). In accordance with Appendix B," which provides this jurisdiction's guidelines regarding hourly rates, based upon length of experience, Plaintiff reasonably requests $425 lor Melissa Gorsline: $300 tilr James Egerton-Vernon and Anastasiya Ugalc: $225 Illr Kelsey Bryan, Christopher Edelman. Lindsay Reimschussel. Jordan Von Bokern, and IL Kristie Xian: $150 tor Cecilia Mullan and Samantha Tejada: and $95 for Tendai ~ Lawyers admitted to the bar for less than five (5) years: $150-225. Lawyers admitted to the bar for five (5) to eight (8) years: S 165-300. Lawyers admitted to the bar for nine (9) to t(H1rtecn (14) years: 5225-350. Lawyers admitted 10 the bar for fifteen (15) to nineteen (19) years: $275-425. L.awyers admitted to the bar for twenty (20) years or more: $300-475. Paralegals and law clerks: $95-150. Loc. R. app. B (D. Md. July I. 2016). 4 Mukau . .Icnai Orina. Tom Polson. and Sarah Subacy:l Iloweycr. bccausc Partncr Cbarlcs Kotuby had betwccn 12-14 years of cxperiencc during the litigation period. his reasonable rate is at most $350 pursuant to Appcndix B(3)(c) ofthc Local Rules. Additionally. although PlaintilTrcqucsts an hourly ratc of$425 for both Ms. Gorslinc and Mr. Kotuby in hcr Memorandum. ECF No. 29 at 13-14. the Fcc Calculations attachcd at ECF No. 29.1 at 27-32 apply an hourly ratc of $475 for Ms. Gorsline and Mr. Kotuby. Thercli)J'c. applying thc proper rate 01'$425 lilr Ms. Gorslinc and $350 lilr Mr. Kotuby. the Court subtracts $2537.00 and $4125.00 from the total fee calculation. Finally. considcration of thc applicable Johllsoll factors counsels in l[lVorof fully compcnsating Plaintilrs attorncys. Thc dcgrec of succcss obtained has bccn charactcrizcd as "the most critical l~lCtor"in dctcrmining the rcasonableness of an award of attorncys' lecs. Ford 1'. Rif!,idp~1' Rqjier.\. /Ilc .. 999 F. Supp. 647.651 (D. Md. 1998) (citing Farrar \'. HoMy. 506 U.S. 103. I 14 (1992)). Hcrc. Ms. Lipcnga was succcssfiIi on all of her claims with thc exccption of thc f[llsc imprisonment claim. See ECF No. 24 at 12-13. Shc thereforc achicyed a high leyel of succcss. Additionally. Plaintiffs counsel took on a case that was both challenging and ultimately guarantccd little. ifany. monctary compensation. Thcreforc. in light of ..thc difficulty of qucstions raised" and "undcsirability of the case within thc Icgal community." RUIIl Creek Coal Sales. 31 F.3d at 175. thc Court linds that Plaintiff's counsel is entitled to full compcnsation lilr the work complctcd. Applying the rate modifications describcd supra. attorneys' fees are thus awarded in the amount of $122.327.50 . . Ms. Gorsline 1 is a partner at the law firm representing plaintiff: she was admitted 10 the bar in 1998. S'ct.' ECF No. 29-2 at 3. Mr. Kaillby. also a partner. \'las admitted 10 the bar in 2002. ECF No. 29-3 at 2. Senior associate James Egerton-Vernon and special legal consultant Anastasiya Ugalc both have nine years ofc.\pcriencc practicing law. 5;//1.' ECF No. 29- ..; ECF No. 29-5. Associates l Kelsey Bryan. Christopher Edelman. Lindsay Rcimschussel. Jordan Von Bokcrn. and H. Kristic Xian have all been admitted to the bar for lessthan five years. See ECF Nos. 2c)-6-29-9. 5 IV. CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons. Plainti!rs Motion for Allorneys' Fees. ECF No. 26. is granted. A separate Order follows. Date: June ?;K- t? . 2017 GEORGE J. HAZEL United States District Judge 6

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