United States District Court, E.D. New York
JAMES PUCCIARELLI; and SALVATORE ISOLDA, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
LAKEVIEW CARS, INC. d/b/a CLOVE LAKE CARS; AFRIM TAHIROVIC; and GONI TAHIROVIC, jointly and severally, Defendants,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ROSLYNN R. MAUSKOPF, United States District Judge.
August 24, 2016, plaintiff James Pucciarelli commenced this
action pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (the
"FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and
the New York Labor Law (the "NYLL") alleging,
inter alia, that defendants failed to pay an
estimated $150, 000 in overtime wages. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1).)
On October 3, 2016, Salvatore Isolda filed a
''Consent to Become Party Plaintiff letter. (Consent
Letter (Doc. No. 11). On November 9, 2016, the parties
appeared before Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes, who referred
the case for mediation. (See 11/09/2016 Minute
Entry). Following mediation, the parties indicated that they
settled this action, (See 1/05/2017 Report) The
parties now ask that the Court approve their proposed
settlement agreement (the "Agreement" (Doc. No.
18-1)) as "a reasonable compromise of disputed issues
[rather] than a mere waiver of statutory rights brought about
by an employer's overreaching." Le v. SIT A
Info. Networking Computing, USA, Inc., No. 07-CV-86
(JS), 2008 WL 724155, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 13, 2008)
(internal quotation marks omitted); see also Cheeks v.
Freeport Pancake House, Inc., 796 F.3d 199, 206 (2d Cir.
2015) ("Stipulated dismissals settling FLSA claims with
prejudice require the approval of the district court. . .
the FLSA, parties cannot settle claims without the approval
of a district court or the Department of Labor.
Cheeks, 796 F.3d at 206. The parties must satisfy
the Court that their agreement is "fair and
reasonable." Flores v. Food Express Rego Park,
Inc., No. 15-CV-1410 (KAM) (SMG), 2016 WL 386042, at * I
(E.D.N.Y.Feb. 1, 2016). Here, the parties have demonstrated
that the Agreement "reflects a reasonable compromise
over contested issues" and is fair and reasonable in all
respects. Johnson v. Brennan, 10-CV-4712 (CM) 2011
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105775 at *36 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 16, 2011).
parties represent in the Agreement that Pucciarelli and
Isolda are receiving full compensation for the wages and
liquidated damages to which they are entitled, and in a
timelier manner than in the event of a trial. (Joint Mot. to
Approve FLSA Settlement (Doc. No. 18) at 4.) Accordingly, the
Court finds the total award to Pucciarelli and Isolda to be
fair and reasonable.
calculate reasonable attorney's fees either by
determining the so-called "lodestar" amount or by
awarding a percentage of the settlement. See McDaniel v.
Cnty. of Schenectady, 595 F.3d 411, 417 (2d Cir. 2010).
The lodestar figure is the product of the attorney's
reasonable hourly rate and the number of hours reasonably
expended in the litigation. See Millea v. Metro-N. R.
Co., 658 F.3d 154, 166 (2d Cir. 2011). "Once that
initial computation has been made, the district court may, in
its discretion, increase the lodestar by applying a
multiplier based on other less objective factors, such as the
risk of the litigation and the performance of the
attorneys." Goldberger v. Integrated Res.,
Inc., 209 F.3d 43, 47 (2d Cir.2000) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted). Under the percentage method,
counsel is awarded a reasonable percentage of the total funds
recovered in the action. McDaniel, 595 F.3d at 417.
In accordance with common practice, the Court employs the
lodestar method as a "crosscheck'' on the
percentage method. Id. at 50.
Pucciarelli and Isolda agreed to pay one-third of all funds
recovered in the lawsuit to Pelton Graham LLC. (Joint Mot. to
Approve FLSA Settlement at 4.) Here, the Agreement calls for
fees in the amount of one-third of the settlement. (Agreement
at 3.) "Courts in this Circuit have often approved
requests for attorneys' fees amounting to 33.3% of a
settlement fund." See Karic v. Major Automotive
Companies, Inc., 09 CV 5708 (CLP), 2016 WL 1745037 at *8
(E.D.N.Y. April 27. 2016) (citing cases). Therefore, based on
the percentage method, the attorney's fees specified in
the Agreement are reasonable.
lodestar method confirms that conclusion. "Recent
decisions in the Eastern District of New York have determined
that reasonable hourly rates in FLSA cases are approximately
$300-5450 for partners, $200-$325 for senior associates,
$100-$200 for junior associates, and $60-80 for legal support
staff." Romero v. Westbury Jeep Chrysler Dodge,
Inc., No. 15-CV-4145 (ADS) (SIL), 2016 WL 1369389, at *2
(E.D.N.Y. Apr. 6, 2016). In this case, plaintiffs'
counsel billed for 67.57 hours of work at various hourly
rates for a total lodestar of $21, 623.22. (See
Affidavit in Support of Settlement (Doc. No. 18-2) at Ex. A.)
Thus, plaintiffs' counsel billed at an average rate of
approximately $320 per hour.
applying the lodestar method, courts generally "apply a
multiplier to take into account the contingent nature of the
fee, the risks of non-payment, the quality of representation,
and the results achieved." In re Platinum &
Palladium Commodities Litig., No. 10-CV-3617 (CCH), 2015
WL 4560206, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. July 7, 2015). A multiplier is
also appropriate where, as here, the "fee award will not
only compensate them for time and effort already expended,
but for time that they will be required to spend
administering the settlement going forward." Willix
v. Healthfirst, Inc., No. 07-CV-l 143 (ENV) (RER) 2011
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21102 at *7 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 18, 2011). Courts
have routinely found that doubling the lodestar yields a
reasonable fee in the context of FLSA settlements. See
e.g. I fall v. Prosource Techs., LLC, No. H-cv-2502
(SIL) 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53791 at *53-55 (E.D.N.Y. Apr.
11, 2016) ("This award represents a 2.08 multiplier of
the modified lodestar, which is reasonable in light of the
Goldberger factors, and is in line with other cases
in the Second Circuit.); Gattinetta v. MichaelKors (USA),
Inc., No. 14-CV-5731 (WHP), 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20419
at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 9, 2016) (applying 1.94 lodestar
multiplier); Fujiwara v. Sushi Yasuda Ltd., 58
F.Supp.3d 424 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 12, 2014) (holding that "a
multiplier near 2 should, in most cases, be sufficient
compensation for the risk associated with contingent fees in
FLSA cases, " and applying multiplier of 2.28 to the
modified lodestar). Here, the Agreement calls for
attorney's fees that amount to a 1.31 multiplier of the
loadstar - well below the multipliers found reasonable in the
Second Circuit. Accordingly, both the lodestar method and the
percentage method confirm that the billing rate in this case
number of hours billed is reasonable, as well. Courts in this
district have found fault with billing practices due to,
inter alia, vague time entries, time billed for
unnecessary or redundant tasks, block-billing (i.e., grouping
multiple tasks into a single time entry), and over-billing
for travel time. See, e.g., Marshall v. Deutsche Post
DHL, No. 13-CV-1471 (RJD)(JO), 2015 WL 5560541, at *11
(E.D.N.Y. Sept. 21, 2015) (reducing attorney's fees where
counsel submitted vague time entries and "the time
entries submitted for the two most senior partners ..
.indicate[d] that they spent the majority of their time
reviewing the work of other attorneys and conferring with
each other, " finding that "[t]his top heavy
approach could have been reduced or avoided"); Sheet
Metal Workers' Nat. Pension Fund v. Coverex Corp. Risk
Sols., No. 09-CV-0121 (SJF) (ARL), 2015 WL 3444896, at*
12 (E.D.N.Y. May 28, 2015) ("[B]lock-billing makes it
difficult if not impossible for a court to determine the
reasonableness of the time spent on each of the individual
services or tasks provided."); Flares, 2016 WL
386042, at *3 (reducing attorney's fees where counsel
"billed a not-insubstantial amount of travel
time"). In this case, counsel submitted time entries
explaining in sufficient detail the work that was done,
billed only for time spent on critical tasks such as client
communication and drafting the complaint, did not engage in
block-billing for ...