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Luo v. L&S Acupuncture, P.C.

United States District Court, Eastern District of New York

April 29, 2015

HUI LUO, Plaintiff,



Having obtained a judgment following trial for $4, 130.75 in unpaid wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and New York Labor Law §650 et seq., plaintiff moves for an award of attorneys’ fees of $84, 362.50 and costs of $4830.67. The motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Standard

Both the FLSA and New York Labor Law allow for an award of “reasonable” attorneys’ fees. See 29 U.S.C. § 216(b); N.Y. Lab. Law § 663(1). The amount of attorneys’ fees to award a prevailing party is determined by calculating the “presumptively reasonable fee.” Simmons v. N.Y. City Transit Auth., 575 F.3d 170, 172 (2d Cir. 2009). To determine this presumptively reasonable fee, the Court first multiplies the number of hours “reasonably spent on the litigation” by “a reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S.Ct. 1933 (1983). A reasonable rate is “the rate a paying client would be willing to pay, ” based on the “prevailing [hourly rate] in the community . . . where the district court sits.” Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Ass’n v. Cnty. of Albany, 522 F.3d 182, 190 (2d Cir. 2007). In determining the reasonable hourly rate, the Court should consider the following factors:

(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions; (3) the level of skill required to perform the legal service properly; (4) the preclusion of employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5) the attorneys’ customary hourly rate; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) the time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved in the case and the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorneys; (10) the “undesirability” of the case; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client, and (12) awards in similar cases.

Id. at 186 n.3 (citing the so-called “Johnson factors” set forth in Johnson v. Ga. Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir. 1974), abrogated on other grounds by Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87, 109 S.Ct. 939 (1989)). “The burden is on the party moving for attorneys’ fees to justify the hourly rate sought.” Ehrlich v. Royal Oak Fin. Servs., Inc., 12-cv-3551, 2012 WL 5438942, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 7, 2012) (citing Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437).

II. Plaintiff’s Attorneys’ Hourly Rates

Plaintiff had six attorneys plus paralegals working on this case. The following chart states their claimed rates and the amount of time put into this case.





John Troy


$ 350

$ 50, 942.50

Benjamin Federici


$ 250

$ 20, 450.00

Amy Millican


$ 250

$ 2, 225.00

Bianca Dano


$ 200

$ 1, 250.00

Chi Yeon Kim


$ 200

$ 7, 540.00

Raakib Bhuiyan


$ 150

$ 945.00



$ 100

$ 1, 010.00



$ 84, 362.50

It should be noted that all of the associates were admitted to the bar in 2014 except Ms. Dano, who is not admitted in New York but was admitted in California in 2013. Mr. Troy has been in practice since 1989 but has only been litigating wage cases since 2009.

It takes little effort to ascertain the prevailing rates in FLSA cases in this district. The explosion of FLSA case filings in this district since 2008, see Encalada v. Baybridge Enters., Ltd., No. 14-cv-3113, 2014 WL 4374495, at *1 n.1 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 2, 2014), has led to numerous decisions on attorneys’ fees. It is now well established, and should remain so unless there is a significant change in the market for legal services in this area, that “[t]he prevailing hourly rate for partners in this district range[s] from $300.00 to $400.00.” Tacuri v. Nithin Constr. Co., No. 14-CV-2908, 2015 WL 790060, at *13 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 24, 2015), and “a reasonable hourly rate for a senior associate ranges from $200 to $300.” Id. Junior associates generally command $100 to $150 dollars per hour. See Griffin v. Astro Moving and Storage Co. Inc., No. 11-cv-1844, 2015 WL 1476415, at *8 (E.D.N.Y. March 31, 2015).

Looking at the prevailing rates, most of the rates claimed by plaintiff in this case are too high. Applying the Johnson factors, while this was not the simplest FLSA case that I have tried, it was not the most complex either, and some of the complexities were unnecessarily caused by plaintiff’s attorneys. Since the case was not settled pretrial but actually tried, it required a substantial time commitment and preparation for trial. The result that was obtained, although not reflecting a substantial judgment, was nevertheless a complete recovery of the wages that plaintiff was owed. These factors lead me to the following conclusions.

First, I cannot justify a rate in excess of $300 per hour for Mr. Troy. The trial was very rough in terms of demonstrating Mr. Troy’s ability to formulate questions according to the rules of evidence, and the theories advanced, for the most part, were not the basis on which I decided the case. There also were a number of pretrial matters that he undertook that could easily have been undertaken by Mr. Federici at a much lower rate.

Second, I cannot award a rate of $250 per hour for associates who were admitted to the bar the same year the case was tried. Mr. Federici seemed competent enough, but he had no experience. I will allow his rate to be $175 per hour, as the ...

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