Williamson v. Ameriflow Energy Services, LLC
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS re 122 Unopposed Motion to Approve Settlement by Magistrate Judge Gregory J. Fouratt. Objections to R&R due by 5/16/2017. See Supplement for Attachments. (kdj)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
RANDY WILLIAMSON, on behalf
of himself and all others similarly situated,
Civ. No. 15‐878 MCA/GJF
AMERIFLOW ENERGY SERVICES
L.L.C., CRESCENT SERVICES L.L.C.,
and CRESCENT CONSULTING L.L.C.,
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs’ “Unopposed Motion for Approval of
FLSA Settlement and Stipulation of Dismissal of Settled Claims with Prejudice” (“Motion”)
On April 28, 2017, the undersigned conducted a fairness hearing pursuant to the
Order of Reference filed by Chief U.S. District Judge M. Christina Armijo [Doc. 123] on April
7, 2017. Having now reviewed the Motion and heard argument from all parties, the Court
REPORTS the following findings:
Plaintiff Randy Williamson commenced this case against Defendants. Fifteen
additional individuals later joined this lawsuit as party-plaintiffs. Mr. Williamson and the
fifteen opt-in Plaintiffs asserted claims against Defendants for alleged violations of the Fair
Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and the New Mexico Minimum Wage
Act, N.M. Stat. Ann. § 50-4-20 et seq. (“NMMWA”).
Counsel to the Plaintiffs represented to the Court that multiple good-faith attempts
were made to notify each Plaintiff individually of the hearing and the right to attend it by
telephone. Although only fourteen (14) of the sixteen (16) Plaintiffs were notified, the Court
finds that Plaintiffs’ counsel made good faith efforts to inform all Plaintiffs of their right to
attend and participate in the fairness hearing.
This Court has jurisdiction over this lawsuit and all parties to this lawsuit.
The parties have had and continue to have bona fide disputes on several issues,
including the Plaintiffs’ classification as independent contractors or de facto employees,
whether any FLSA violation was willful so as to expand the applicable statute of limitations, the
viability of the “good faith” defense, and the type, computation, and amount of damages.
The Court has reviewed the Motion, along with the Confidential Settlement
Agreement [see attach. 1] 1 between the Defendants and Plaintiff Williamson (who signed the
Agreement individually and as authorized agent on behalf of the other fifteen Plaintiffs), and
other materials provided in camera.
As set forth in the Motion and the Settlement Agreement, and as further
substantiated by information provided to the Court during the fairness hearing, the settlement
reached by the parties is a fair and reasonable resolution of this lawsuit and was negotiated at
arms-length and free of collusion by qualified counsel on both sides. This case has been
vigorously litigated throughout its nineteen-month existence, with the parties contesting nearly
every facet of the case, including certification of the FLSA collective, notice to the collective,
and discovery. The Court has no doubt that similarly-intense litigation would have continued
throughout the remaining pretrial and trial phases of this case but for the settlement reached
between the parties.
In the interests of maintaining the confidentiality of the settlement process and agreement in this case, the Court
GRANTS the parties’ motion to seal all materials provided to this Court in camera. These documents will be filed
under seal as attachments 1 through 3 in a supplement to this Report and Recommendation. The Court also
GRANTS the parties’ oral motion to seal the recording of the fairness hearing given that specific terms of the
confidential settlement agreement were explicitly discussed.
The Court finds that the criteria evaluated by Plaintiffs’ counsel and Plaintiff
Williamson in deciding to accept the total settlement amount were prudent and reasonable. The
Court is especially persuaded of the reasonableness of the total settlement amount because it
represents almost 82% of the “net-in-pocket” amount that the collective plaintiffs would have
received after trial, assuming two years of affected wage payments. The Court also credits
defense counsel’s explanation that the total settlement amount was actually at or above the
Defendants’ estimated post-trial damages valuation.
The Court finds that Plaintiffs’ counsel adequately discussed with each individual
Plaintiff the total settlement amount, the percentage of the total amount that would be disbursed
to Plaintiff’s counsel for fees and costs, and the individual disbursement that each Plaintiff
would receive. See attach. 2.
The Court finds, based on the reasoning detailed in Plaintiff’s Motion [See Pl.’s
Mot. 8-16, Doc. 122], that the portion of the total settlement amount proposed for Plaintiffs’
attorney fees and costs is reasonable and just, particularly given the complexity and intensity of
litigation in this case, the specialized knowledge that such cases require to successfully
prosecute, and the financial risk that contingency cases of this kind impose on plaintiff counsel.
See attach. 3. The Court further observes that the 40% contingency fee percentage applicable in
this case yields an amount that is significantly less than the “lodestar” amount that would
otherwise apply if Plaintiff’s counsel were compensated on an hourly rate basis.
Counsel to the Plaintiffs represented to the Court that all Plaintiffs consent to the
settlement with Defendants and the relief requested in the Motion. After reasonable inquiry, the
Court is aware of no objection by any Plaintiff to any aspect of the proposed settlement.
The Court makes no finding or recommendation as to the validity, or lack thereof,
of any claim against any Defendant. Likewise, the Court makes no finding or recommendation
as to whether any Defendant is liable under the FLSA, the NMMWA, or any other potentially
The Court further finds that the parties have consented to this Court maintaining
jurisdiction over this matter to enforce all terms and conditions of the Settlement Agreement.
IT IS THEREFORE RECOMMENDED that:
Plaintiffs’ Motion should be granted.
The claims of all Plaintiffs against all Defendants should be dismissed with
The Settlement Agreement submitted to the Court in camera should be approved
in its entirety. All opt-in class members and the named Plaintiff should be deemed to have
released their claims pursuant to the Settlement Agreement.
All payments as described in the Settlement Agreement should be approved,
including the payments to the Plaintiffs and the Plaintiffs’ counsel’s fees and costs.
The Defendants should be ordered to make all payments according to the schedule
set forth in the Settlement Agreement.
The Court shall retain jurisdiction over the parties and the Settlement Agreement
to enforce the agreement should any controversy arise about the terms of the Settlement
Agreement or any party’s performance of its obligations under the Settlement Agreement.
IT IS SO RECOMMENDED.
THE HONORABLE GREGORY J. FOURATT
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE PARTIES ARE FURTHER NOTIFIED THAT WITHIN 14 DAYS OF
SERVICE of a copy of this Report and Recommendations they may file written objections
with the Clerk of the District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c). Any request for an
extension must be filed in writing no later than seven days from the date of this filing.
Should the parties have no objections, they may choose to waive the fourteen-day
period by filing notice of their lack of objections to this Report and Recommendations.
A party must file any objections with the Clerk of the District Court within the
fourteen-day period if that party wants to have appellate review of the proposed
findings and recommended disposition. If no objections are filed, no appellate review
will be allowed.
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