United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
LAURA LOSACANO, DANETTE BEDERKA, LEIGH KUNDRICK, COLLEEN SANCHEZ, VICTORIA DULL, SUSAN JULIAN and WYNONA PARR, on behalf of herself and other employees similarly situated Plaintiffs,
ANTHONY 57, INC., ANTHONY SERRAGO and SABAL SPRINGS HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC., Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION 
MIRANDO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter comes before the Court upon review of the Joint Motion
to Approve Mediated Settlement Agreement in FLSA Case, and to
Dismiss Plaintiffs' Claims with Prejudice (Doc.
75) filed on March 2, 2018. Plaintiffs and Defendant
Sabal Springs Homeowners' Association, Inc.
(“Sabal”) request that the Court approve the
parties' settlement of the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”) claims and dismiss with prejudice
Plaintiffs' claims against all three Defendants. Doc.
75. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court
recommends that the settlement be APPROVED
and Plaintiffs' claims be dismissed with prejudice.
approve the settlement, the Court must determine whether it
is a “fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide
dispute” of the claims raised pursuant to the FLSA.
Lynn's Food Store, Inc. v. United States, 679
F.2d 1350, 1355 (11th Cir. 1982). There are two ways for a
claim under the FLSA to be settled or compromised.
Id. at 1352-53. The first is under 29 U.S.C. §
216(c), providing for the Secretary of Labor to supervise the
payments of unpaid wages owed to employees. Id. at
1353. The second is under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) when an
action is brought by employees against their employer to
recover back wages. Id. When the employees file
suit, the proposed settlement must be presented to the
district court for the district court to review and determine
that the settlement is fair and reasonable. Id. at
Eleventh Circuit has found settlements to be permissible when
the lawsuit is brought by employees under the FLSA for back
wages because the lawsuit provides
some assurance of an adversarial context. The employees are
likely to be represented by an attorney who can protect their
rights under the statute. Thus, when the parties submit a
settlement to the court for approval, the settlement is more
likely to reflect a reasonable compromise of disputed issues
than a mere waiver of statutory rights brought about by an
employer's overreaching. If a settlement in an employee
FLSA suit does reflect a reasonable compromise over issues,
such as FLSA coverage or computation of back wages that are
actually in dispute; we allow the district court to approve
the settlement in order to promote the policy of encouraging
settlement of litigation.
Id. at 1354. “Short of a bench trial, the
Court is generally not in as good a position as the parties
to determine the reasonableness of an FLSA settlement. . . .
If the parties are represented by competent counsel in an
adversary context, the settlement they reach will, almost by
definition, be reasonable.” Bonetti v. Embarq Mgmt.
Co., 715 F.Supp.2d 1222, 1227 (M.D. Fla. 2009).
Nevertheless, the Court must scrutinize the settlement to
determine whether it is a “fair and reasonable
resolution of a bona fide dispute.” Lynn's Food
Store, Inc., 679 F.2d at 1355.
Plaintiff Laura Losacano filed a Collective Action Complaint
for Damages on behalf of herself and other employees
similarly situated, seeking recovery of unpaid minimum wages
under the FLSA and the Florida Constitution against
Defendants Anthony 57, Inc. (“Anthony”), Anthony
Serrago (“Serrago”) and Sabal (collectively,
“Defendants”). Doc. 1. On March 10,
2017, Losacano and six additional Plaintiffs filed an Amended
Complaint for Damages against Defendants. Doc. 11.
Sabal operates a homeowners' association in Fort Myers,
Florida. Id. ¶ 17. Defendants jointly employed
Plaintiffs. Id. ¶ 19. Plaintiffs allege they
worked as food and drink servers for Defendants in 2016.
Id. ¶¶ 12, 23-29. Plaintiffs claim during
the terms of their employment, they were paid below the
statutory minimum wage. Id. ¶ 30.
15, 2017, the Court directed the Clerk to enter a default
against Anthony and Serrago for their failure to respond to
the Complaint on time. Doc. 21. On September 21,
2017, Sabal filed a Verified Crossclaim against Anthony and
Serrago. Doc. 49. On November 7, 2017, the Court
directed the Clerk to enter a default against Anthony and
Serrago for their failure to respond to Sabal's
crossclaim. Doc. 62. On February 4, 2018, Plaintiffs
and Sabal participated in the mediation, reaching the
settlement agreement. Doc. 72. Here, the parties
seek to dismiss with prejudice only Plaintiffs' claims
against all Defendants and not Sabal's crossclaim because
Sabal intends to pursue Anthony and Serrago for the money it
spent to reach this settlement with Plaintiffs. Doc. 75
at 5 n.2.
proposed settlement agreement, Sabal agrees to pay Plaintiffs
a settlement amount totaling $18, 776.47 in consideration for
their underlying claims for unpaid wages. Doc. 75-1
¶ 2. The parties state Plaintiffs would recover nothing
here if Sabal is found not to be an employer as Sabal argues.
Doc. 75 at 3-4. Plaintiffs also are skeptical that
Anthony and Serrago have any assets to satisfy a judgment if
Plaintiffs pursue their claims against the defaulting
Defendants. Id. at 4. Thus, the parties allege by
entering into this agreement, Plaintiffs avoid the risk of
not recovering any damages. Id. The parties further
state they reached the agreement after their respective
attorneys engaged in face-to-face discussions, and each
Plaintiff was involved in fashioning the settlement
agreement. Id. at 4-5.
on the parties' representations and the policy in this
circuit of promoting settlement of litigation, the Court
recommends the monetary terms of the proposed settlement to
be a fair and reasonable compromise of the dispute. Other
courts in this district similarly have approved settlements
for a compromised amount in light of the strength of the
defenses, the complexity of the case, and the expense and
length of continued litigation. See e.g., Diaz
v. Mattress One, Inc., No. 6:10-CV-1302-ORL-22, 2011 WL
3167248, at *2 (M.D. Fla. July 15, 2011), report and
recommendation adopted, 2011 WL 3166211 (M.D. Fla. July 27,
2011); see also Dorismond v. Wyndham Vacation Ownership,
Inc., No. 6:14-cv-63-Orl-28GJK, 2014 WL 2861483 (M.D.
Fla. June 24, 2014); Helms v. Ctr. Fla. Reg'l
Hosp., No. 6:05-cv-383-Orl-22JGG, 2006 WL 3858491 (M.D.
Fla. Dec. 26, 2006).
addition, the “FLSA requires judicial review of the
reasonableness of counsel's legal fees to assure both
that counsel is compensated adequately and that no conflict
of interest taints the amount the wronged employee recovers
under a settlement agreement.” Silva v.
Miller, 307 F. App'x 349, 351 (11th Cir. 2009).
Pursuant to Bonetti, 715 F.Supp.2d at 1228,
the best way to insure that no conflict [of interest between
an attorney's economic interests and those of his client]
has tainted the settlement is for the parties to reach
agreement as to the plaintiff's recovery before the fees
of the plaintiff's counsel are considered. If these
matters are addressed independently and seriatim, there is no
reason to assume that the lawyer's fee has influenced the
reasonableness of the plaintiff's settlement.
instant case, Sabal agrees to pay Plaintiffs'
attorney's fees and costs in the amount of $31, 223.53.
Doc. 75-1 ¶ 3. The settlement was reached and
the fees and costs were agreed upon separately and without
regard to the amount paid to Plaintiffs. Doc. 75 at
3. Under these ...