ROOFERS LOCAL 30 COMBINED WELFARE FUND et al v. BOURQUE

Filing 34

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER THAT PLAINTIFFS' PETITION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS, INTEREST AND LIQUIDATED DAMAGES WILL BE GRANTED; ETC.. SIGNED BY HONORABLE EDMUND V. LUDWIG ON 7/8/10. 7/9/10 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO UNREPS, E-MAILED.(jl, )

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R O O F E R S LOCAL 30 COMBINED WELFARE FUND et al v. BOURQUE D o c . 34 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA R O O F E R S LOCAL 30 COMBINED W E L F A R E FUND, et al. v. W IL L IA M J. BOURQUE : : : : : : C IV IL ACTION N o . 06-3787 MEMORANDUM L u d w ig , J. July 8, 2010 T h is is an ERISA case, 29 U.S.C. 1001, et seq. Jurisdiction is federal question. 28 U .S .C . 1331. Plaintiffs 1 commenced this action against defendant William J. Bourque alleging fa ilu re to make contributions due under a collective bargaining agreement. Following a h ea rin g , judgment was entered in favor of plaintiffs and against defendant, and plaintiffs w e re awarded $11,137.67 in unpaid contributions. Docket nos. 26 and 27 (order and s u p p o rtin g decision). On October 14, 2009, plaintiffs filed a petition for attorney's fees and c o sts , interest and liquidated damages. Docket no. 28. For the following reasons, the motion w ill be granted. Plaintiffs will be awarded liquidated damages of $1,670.65, interest of $ 7 ,3 0 8 .7 5 and attorney's fees and costs of $29,297.52. Plaintiffs are Roofers Local 30 Combined Welfare Fund, Roofers Local No., 30 Combined Pension Fund, Roofers Local No. 30 Combined Vacation Fund, Roofers Local 30 Combined Annuity Fund, Composition Roofers Union Local 30 Apprenticeship Fund, Roofing Contractors Association Industry Fund, and Local Union No. 30 of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers, and Allied Workers, AFL-CIO. 1 Dockets.Justia.com L iq u id a te d damages L iq u id a te d damages are assessed in an amount equal to fifteen percent (15%) of the a m o u n t of delinquent contributions not received by the twenty-fifth (25 th ) day of the month fo llo w in g the month in which the contribution obligation was incurred. 29 U.S.C. 1 1 3 2 (g )(2 ). Fifteen percent (15%) of the delinquent contributions ($11,137.67) is $1,670.65. I n te r e s t " A n employer who has not paid its required contributions for a month by the twentyfifth (25 th ) day of the month following the month in which the contribution obligation was in c u rre d shall be required to pay, in addition to unpaid contributions, interest equal to one p erc en t (1%) of the gross amount of the contributions due the Fund for each month (or part o f a month) the contributions remain unpaid." According to plaintiffs' Exhibit 5, a total of $ 7 ,3 0 8 .7 5 in interest is due under this formula. Attorney's Fees S e c tio n 502 of ERISA requires an award of attorneys fees where, as here, a defendant h a s been found in violation of Section 515. United Auto Workers Local 259 Soc. Sec. Dept. v . Metro Auto Center, 501 F.3d 283, 291 (3d Cir. 2007) ("ERISA allows a prevailing plan to recover `reasonable attorney's fees."). The starting point for calculating the re a so n a b le n e ss of the attorney's fees requested is the lodestar. Hahnemann Univ. Hosp. v. A ll Shore, Inc., 300, 310 (3d Cir. 2008), citing UAW Local 259, 501 F.3d at 290 ("Under the lo d e sta r approach, a court determines the reasonable number of hours expended on the litig atio n multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate."). 2 " G e n e ra lly , a reasonable hourly rate is to be calculated according to the prevailing m a rk e t rates in the relevant community." Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892 F.3d 1177, 1183 (3d C ir. 1990). Here, plaintiffs submitted the affidavit of Shanna M. Cramer, Esquire, an a ss o c ia te at Jennings Sigmond, P.C., which has represented plaintiffs throughout this action. E x h ib it 1 to plaintiffs' petition. At the time this action was commenced, Ms. Cramer's fee w a s $230 per hour. In April, 2007, her hourly fee was increased to $250. Id., 5. This h o u rly rate falls within a reasonable range according to figures stated in the affidavit. A c c o rd in g to Altman Weil, a leading law firm consultant, in 2005, the median associate h o u rly fee in the Middle Atlantic region, including Philadelphia, was $195, while the rate at th e 90 th percentile was $273. Id., 8(b). Her firm specializes in the representation of multie m p lo y e r employee benefit funds groups, and as such, a fee somewhat higher than the m ed ian, but below the high end of the scale, appears to be reasonable. See also Carpenters P e n s io n & Annuity Plan v. Grosso, No. 07-5013, 2009 WL 2431340, at *20 (E.D. Pa., Aug. 6 , 2009) (hourly rate for associate of $230 was reasonable in ERISA case). "A request for fees must be accompanied by `fairly definite information as to hours d e v o te d to various general activities, e.g., partial discovery, settlement negotiations, and the h o u rs spent by various classes of attorneys.'" UAW Local 259, 501 F.3d at 291 (citations o m itte d ). Here, plaintiffs attached "Time and Expense Details" as Exhibit 2. The document lis ts for each of the approximately 100 entries the date, the attorney providing the service, th e amount of time billed in one-tenth of an hour increments, the hourly fee, the amount to b e billed for the task, and a narrative description of the task performed. These descriptions 3 c o n ta in information sufficient to assess whether the time spent was appropriate. None of the e n tries appears inflated or unnecessary. Counsel's representation included settlement efforts w ith an unrepresented defendant, and after counsel for defendant entered an appearance, a tte n d a n ce at pre-trial conferences, a hearing and preparation of findings of fact and c o n clus ion s of law. In these circumstances, the number of hours worked - 111.3 - is r e a so n a b le . " A lth o u g h multiplying a reasonable number of hours by a reasonable rate produces a presumptively reasonable fee, that `does not end the inquiry. There remain other c o n s id e ra tio n s that may lead the district court to adjust the fee upward or downward.'" UAW L o c a l 259, 501 F.3d at 292. Here, plaintiffs request $28,206 for the hours billed to this m a tte r, including time billed for the preparation of the petition for fees. The amount of the ju d g m e n t for unpaid contributions was $11,137.67, roughly one-third of the total amount re q u e ste d . At first, this might suggest a downward adjustment; however, there is no re q u ire m e n t in ERISA cases that the fees awarded be proportionate to the amounts recovered. U A W Local 259, 501 F.3d at 294-95 (citations omitted) ("When delinquencies are small, the c o st of recovery may be disproportionate, and requiring proportionality would, in effect, d isc o u ra g e plans from taking their claims to federal courts. . . . requiring proportionality w o u ld neglect the language of ERISA and frustrate its purpose."). Moreover, the economic h a rd s h ip that the award may impose on a defendant is not pertinent. Carpenters Health and W elfare Fund of Philadelphia and Vicinity v. Ambrose, 727 F.2d 279, 286 (3d Cir.1983). A c c o rd in g ly , the fee will not be adjusted downward for disproportionality. 4 P la in tiffs also request recovery of costs in the amount of $1,091.52, including a $350 filin g fee, a $103.10 fee for service, and approximately $550 in computer-assisted research. E x h ib it 2. O'Farrell v. Twin Bros. Meats, Inc., 889 F.Supp. 189, 192 (E.D. Pa. 1995) (re a so n a b le costs associated with computer research recoverable as costs). These appear to h a v e been necessary. F o r these reasons, plaintiffs' petition for attorney's fees and costs, interest, and liq u id a te d damages will be granted. An order accompanies this memorandum. B Y THE COURT: /s/ Edmund V. Ludwig Edmund V. Ludwig, J. 5

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