Martinez et al v. SJG Foods LLC et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER re: 27 LETTER re: Settlement Approval. The Court approves the Agreement in its entirety. This action is hereby dismissed with prejudice, and the Clerk of Court is respectfully directed to close this case, and as further set forth herein. (Signed by Judge Ronnie Abrams on 10/16/2017) (ras)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
DATE FILED: 10/16/17
ARMANDO MARTINEZ, DIEGO FABIAN
COCHA GAONA, GABRIEL GARCIA,
JERONIMO RIVERA, and LUIS ALBERTO
BOTZOTZ QUINO, individually and on
behalf of others similarly situated,
No. 16-CV-7890 (RA)
SJG FOODS LLC (d/b/a BENARES) (f/k/a
BALUCHI'S), TRIBECA RESTAURANT
LLC (d/b/a BENARES), (f/k/a BALUCHI'S)
RAKESH AGGARWAL, INDER SINGH,
GURVINDER SAHNI, RANJIT SINGH,
YOGEETA SAHNI, and SUKHDEV SINGH,
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
RONNIE ABRAMS, United States District Judge:
Plaintiffs Armando Martinez, Diego Fabian Cocha Gaona, Gabriel Garcia, Jeronimo
Rivera, and Luis Alberto Botzotz Quino brought this action pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards
Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and New York Labor Law ("NYLL") to recover unpaid
wages and overtime pay from Defendants, and to redress other alleged violations. On April 20,
2017, the parties jointly moved, pursuant to Cheeks v. Freeport Pancake House, Inc., 796 F .3d
199 (2d Cir. 2015), for judicial approval of a proposed settlement agreement. Dkt. 21. On May
16, 2017, this Court declined to approve the proposed settlement because of overly broad release
and confidentiality provisions and a lack of sufficient information concerning attorneys' fees.
Dkt. 22. On August 25, 2017, the parties jointly moved for judicial approval of a revised
settlement agreement ("the Agreement"). Dkt. 27.
The Agreement provides for a total payment by Defendants to Plaintiffs and their counsel
of $200,000 and for this action to be dismissed with prejudice. Dkt. 27-1, at 2. Plaintiffs' counsel
are to receive $66,000 of the total payment. Dkt. 27, at 1. The Agreement narrows the release-ofclaims provision to those claims asserted in the Complaint and removes references to
confidentiality. See Dkt. 27-1. The Agreement also provides sufficient billing records for the
Court to evaluate the fairness of the fees requested. See Dkt. 27-2.
"[S]tipulated dismissals settling FLSA claims with prejudice require the approval of the
district court or the [Department of Labor] to take effect." Cheeks, 796 F.3d at 206. "[T]he
parties must satisfy the Court that their agreement is 'fair and reasonable."' Santos v.
Yellowstone Props., Inc., No. 15-CV-3986 (PAE), 2016 WL 2757427, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. May 10,
2016) (quoting Velasquez v. SAFl-G, Inc., 137 F. Supp. 3d 582, 584 (S.D.N.Y. 2015)).
"Generally, there is a strong presumption in favor of finding a settlement fair, as the Court is
generally not in as good a position as the parties to determine the reasonableness of an FLSA
settlement." Pavon v. Daniel's Bagel Corp., No. 15-CV-8376 (LTS), 2016 WL 3960555, at *l
(S.D.N.Y. July 12, 2016) (quoting Lliguichuzhca v. Cinema 60, LLC, 948 F. Supp. 2d 362, 365
To evaluate whether a proposed settlement meets this threshold, the Court should
consider a wide range of factors, including the plaintiffs' range of possible recovery, the
avoidance of the burdens and expenses oflitigation, and, among others, whether "the settlement
agreement is the product of arm's-length bargaining between experienced counsel." Wolinsky v.
Scholastic Inc., 900 F. Supp. 2d 332, 335 (S.D.N.Y. 2012) (quoting Medley v. Am. Cancer Soc.,
No. 10-CV-3214 (BSJ), 2010 WL 3000028, at *l (S.D.N.Y. July 23, 2010)). The Court should
also consider factors that "weigh against" concluding a settlement is fair and reasonable, such as
the presence of other similarly situated employees and "a history of FLSA non-compliance by
the same employer or others in the same industry or geographic region." Id. at 336 (internal
After considering such factors, the Court concludes that the Agreement is a fair and
reasonable settlement of Plaintiffs' claims, and one that adequately responds to this Court's
concerns with the initial proposed settlement.
In FLSA actions, "[t]he court ... shall, in addition to any judgment awarded to the
plaintiff or plaintiffs, allow a reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by the defendant, and costs of
the action." 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). The NYLL also entitles a prevailing plaintiff to recover
reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. See NYLL §§ 198(1-a), 663(1).
"The Court must ... separately assess the reasonableness of plaintiffs' attorney's fees,
even when the fee is negotiated as part of a settlement rather than judicially determined." Beckert
v. Rubinov, No. 15-CV-1951(PAE),2015 WL 6503832, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 27, 2015) (quoting
Lliguichuzcha, 948 F. Supp. 2d at 366). "A court determining the portion of a FLSA settlement
reasonably allocated to attorneys' fees may use either a 'lodestar' method or a 'percentage of the
fund."' Lopez v. Ploy Dee, Inc., No. 15-CV-647 (AJN), 2016 WL 1626631, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Apr.
21, 2016) (quoting Thornhill v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc., No. 13-CV-5507 (IMF), 2014 WL
1100135, at *2 & n. l (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 20, 2014)). In determining a reasonable award of
attorneys' fees, a court should also consider "traditional criteria" such as "(1) the time and labor
expended by counsel; (2) the magnitude and complexities of the litigation; (3) the risk of the
litigation ... ; (4) the quality of representation; (5) the requested fee in relation to the settlement;
and (6) public policy considerations." Goldberger v. Integrated Resources, Inc., 209 F.3d 43, 50
(2d Cir. 2000) (internal quotations omitted).
Applying the "percentage of the fund" approach in this case, and considering all the
"traditional criteria," the Court concludes that the attorneys' fees sought in the Agreement are
reasonable. Plaintiffs' counsel seek one-third of the total award of $200,000. When using a
"percentage of the fund" approach, "courts regularly approve attorney's fees of one-third of the
settlement amount in FLSA cases." Meza v. 317 Amsterdam Corp., No. 14-CV-9007 (VSB),
2015 WL 9161791, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 14, 2015). Even one-third awards, however, can be
"simply too great" in relation to the work performed. Larrea v. FPC Coffees Realty Co., Inc.,
No. 15-CV-1515 (RA), 2017 WL 1857246, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. May 5, 2017) (declining to approve
an 11.4 multiplier of the lodestar). But given the swift resolution of this case and the Court's
desire to avoid "creat[ing] a disincentive to early settlement," Hyun v. Ippudo USA Holdings et
al., No. 14-CV-8706 (AJN), WL 2016 1222347, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 24, 2016) (quoting
McDaniel v. Cty. OJSchenectady, 595 F.3d 411, 418 (2d Cir. 2010), the requested fees are
reasonable. The Court thus approves the proposed attorneys' fees.
The Court approves the Agreement in its entirety. This action is hereby dismissed with
prejudice, and the Clerk of Court is respectfully directed to close this case.
October 16, 2017
New York, New York
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?