Sanderson et al v. City of Potosi et al.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER - IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the parties motion for court approval of the settlement agreement filed in camera is GRANTED. The settlement agreement is approved and incorporated by reference as part of this order. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this action is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE in its entirety. Each party will bear its own costs and fees except as otherwise provided for in the settlement agreement. IT IS FINALLY ORDERED that the settlement materials submitted to the Court for in camera review shall be maintained by the Clerk of Court under seal. Signed by Magistrate Judge Nannette A. Baker on 5/3/16. (KJS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
LAWRENCE SANDERSON, et al.,
CITY OF POTOSI, et al.,
Case No. 4:13-CV-1457 NAB
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). This matter is before the Court upon the parties’ notice of
settlement and motion for court approval in light of Plaintiffs’ claim for failure to pay overtime
wages under § 216(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). 1 The Court has conducted an in
camera review of the parties’ settlement agreement and motion for court approval, as well as a
colloquy with counsel on the record regarding attorneys’ fees and the overall fairness of the
settlement. Finding that the settlement is fair and equitable to all parties, the Court will approve
The Court first notes that “the law is unsettled as to whether judicial approval of a
proposed settlement of FLSA claims is required in the absence of a certified class.” King v.
Raineri Const., LLC, No. 4:14-CV-1828 CEJ, 2015 WL 631253, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 12, 2015).
Nonetheless, because declining to review the proposed settlement agreement would leave the
parties in an uncertain position, the Court will review the settlement’s FLSA-related terms for
fairness. Id. The Court’s review “is properly limited only to those terms precisely addressing the
Plaintiffs also brought claims for retaliation under the FLSA and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
compromised monetary amounts to resolve pending wage and overtime claims.” Carrillo v.
Dandan Inc., 51 F. Supp. 3d 124, 134 (D.D.C. 2014).
A district court may only approve an FLSA settlement agreement after it determines that
the litigation involves a bona fide dispute and that the proposed settlement is fair and equitable to
all parties. Fry v. Accent Mktg. Servs. L.L.C., No. 4:13-CV-59 (CDP), 2014 WL 294421, at *1
(E.D. Mo. Jan. 27, 2014); see also Lynn’s Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350,
1353 (11th Cir. 1982). Here, Defendants produced documents regarding hours worked and
copies of payroll checks for the pertinent period, the parties reportedly disputed whether a partial
exemption for law enforcement applies, and Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment
based on the statute of limitations. Therefore, the Court finds that this action involves a bona
fide dispute with regard to Plaintiff’s claim for failure to pay overtime wages under § 216(b) of
To determine whether a proposed settlement is fair and equitable, courts consider the
totality of the circumstances. “[F]actors a court may consider include the stage of the litigation
and amount of discovery exchanged, the experience of counsel, the probability of plaintiffs’
success on the merits, any ‘overreaching’ by the employer in the settlement negotiations, and
whether the settlement was the product of arm’s length negotiations between represented parties
based on the merits of the case.” King, 2015 WL 631253, at *2.
In making a fairness
determination, courts “should be mindful of the strong presumption in favor of finding a
settlement fair.” Crabtree v. Volkert, Inc., No. 11-0529-WS-B, 2013 WL 593500, at *3 (S.D.
Ala. Feb. 14, 2013) (noting that “the Court is generally not in as good a position as the parties to
determine the reasonableness of a FLSA settlement”) (quoting Bonetti v. Embarq Mgmt. Co.,
715 F. Supp. 2d 1222, 1227 (M.D. Fla. 2009)).
Considering the totality of the circumstances, the Court finds that the proposed settlement
is fair and equitable to all parties. The settlement comes on the brink of summary judgment
motions and trial, following extensive discovery. The parties have developed their cases enough
to know the potential recovery and the relative risks of proceeding to trial with their claims, yet
the litigation is not so advanced that the parties will not realize significant benefits by settling
before filing dispositive motions and proceeding to trial. The parties have been represented by
competent counsel and the settlement reflects a compromise based on the merits of Plaintiffs’
claims. Therefore, the Court finds no basis to doubt that the settlement is fair and equitable to all
The requested attorneys’ fees in this case are also reasonable. It is well-established that
“[t]he starting point in determining attorney fees is the lodestar, which is calculated by
multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by the reasonable hourly rat[e].” Fish v.
St. Cloud State Univ., 295 F.3d 849, 851 (8th Cir. 2002). The attorneys in this case have
engaged in extensive discover as well as significant motion practice, negotiated with opposing
counsel, and participated in mediation. The amount of attorneys’ fees requested by Plaintiffs’
counsel is not opposed by Defendants and is reasonable based on the amount of time and effort
expended on this case.
Finally, the parties filed their settlement agreement for court review in camera, and their
settlement agreement contains a confidentiality provision. Balancing the substantial benefits of
this settlement against the harm of sealing these documents from public view, the Court finds
that the interests of justice weigh in favor of approving the parties’ settlement agreement and
allowing it to remain under seal.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the parties’ motion for court approval of the settlement
agreement filed in camera is GRANTED.
The settlement agreement is approved and
incorporated by reference as part of this order.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this action is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE in
its entirety. Each party will bear its own costs and fees except as otherwise provided for in the
IT IS FINALLY ORDERED that the settlement materials submitted to the Court for in
camera review shall be maintained by the Clerk of Court under seal.
Dated this 3rd day of May, 2016.
/s/ Nannette A. Baker
NANNETTE A. BAKER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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