United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
MARIAH RUMREICH, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
GOOD SHEPHERD DAY SCHOOL OF CHARLOTTE, INC., Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION 
MCCOY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney's
Fees and Costs filed on September 27, 2018. (Doc.
58). Defendant responded to Plaintiff's Motion on
October 31, 2018. (Doc. 63). With leave of court,
Plaintiff filed a Reply to Defendant's Response.
(Doc. 66). Accordingly, this matter is ripe for
review. For the reasons set forth below, the Undersigned
recommends that Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney's
Fees and Costs (Doc. 58) be GRANTED IN PART
and DENIED IN PART.
30, 2017, Plaintiff Mariah Rumreich brought this Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”) action for an alleged
overtime compensation violation pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §
207 against The Church of the Good Shepherd, Inc. (Doc.
1). On August 8, 2017, Plaintiff amended her Complaint
by substituting Defendant Good Shepherd Day School of
Charlotte County, Inc., for the Church of the Good Shepherd,
Inc. (Doc. 15; see alsoDoc. 16).
alleged in the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff worked for
Defendant as a preschool teacher from April 2015 to March
2017. (Doc. 15 at 3). Plaintiff alleged Defendant
failed to properly compensate her for the time she worked in
excess of forty hours per week. (Id. at 5). In
addition to overtime compensation and liquidated damages,
Plaintiff requested “reasonable attorney's fees and
costs and expenses of the litigation pursuant to 29 U.S.C.
§ 216(b).” (Id. at 6). On August 29,
2017, Defendant filed an Answer, denying all liability for
the alleged overtime compensation violation and asserting
that Plaintiff was exempt from entitlement to overtime
compensation. (Doc. 20). Ultimately, the parties
reached a settlement wherein Plaintiff accepted
Defendant's Offer of Judgment in the amount of $500.00.
September 18, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiff's Notice
of Acceptance of Rule 68 Offer and Notice of Filing Offer of
Judgment. (Doc. 57). Moreover, the Court retained
“jurisdiction for the limited purpose of determining an
appropriate award for fees and costs.” (Id. at
5-6). The Court also directed the parties to confer on
attorney's fees and costs prior to filing any motions.
(Id. at 6).
filed the Motion sub judice on September 27, 2018.
(Doc. 58). She contends that reasonable
attorney's fees and costs are “mandatory under the
FLSA” when a plaintiff is the prevailing party.
(Id. at 3). Plaintiff requests fees in the amount of
$11, 900.00 and costs in the amount of $472.59.
(Id.). Plaintiff's attorney requests an hourly
rate of $500.00. (Id. at 9). While Defendant does
not dispute that “the FLSA permits the recovery of
reasonable attorney's fees and costs, ” it contests
the requested hourly rate and the number of hours expended in
this action as excessive and unreasonable. (Doc. 63 at
4-17). The Court must now determine whether
Plaintiff's request for attorney's fees and costs is
the FLSA, courts “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). “A
reasonable attorneys' fee is ‘properly calculated
by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended on the
litigation times a reasonable hourly rate'” to
obtain the “lodestar.” Wales v. Jack M.
Berry, Inc., 192 F.Supp.2d 1313, 1317 (M.D. Fla. 2001)
(quoting Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 888 (1984));
see also Lawrence v. Berkley Grp., Inc.,
No. 10-61069-civ-KMW, 2013 WL 12239477, at *1 (S.D. Fla. Feb.
party seeking fees “bears the burden of establishing
entitlement and documenting the appropriate hours and hourly
rates.” Norman v. Housing Auth. of Montgomery,
836 F.2d 1292, 1303 (11th Cir. 1988). “[A]n applicant
may meet this burden by producing either direct evidence of
rates charged under similar circumstances, or opinion
evidence of reasonable rates.” Wales, 192
F.Supp.2d at 1317 (citing Norman, 836 F.2d at 1299).
A court may, however, rely on its own expertise and judgment
in assessing the value of counsel's services.
Id. (citing Norman, 836 F.2d at 1303).
first step in reaching the lodestar is to determine a
reasonable hourly rate, which “is the prevailing market
rate in the relevant legal community for similar services by
lawyers of reasonably comparable skills, experience, and
reputation.” Norman, 836 F.2d at 1299 (citing
Blum, 465 U.S. at 895-96 n.11). Generally, the
“‘relevant market' for purposes of
determining the reasonable hourly rate for an attorney's
services is ‘the place where the case is
filed.'” Wales, 192 F.Supp.2d at 1318
(quoting ACLU of Ga. v. Barnes, 168 F.3d 423, 437
(11th Cir. 1999)); see also United States v.
Central Fla. Reg'l Workforce Dev. Bd., Inc., No.
6:04-cv-93-Orl-9DABC, 2007 WL 1601747, at *5 (M.D. Fla. June
1, 2007). Thus, the relevant market is the Fort Myers
Division of the United States District Court for the Middle
District of Florida. Isaac v. Classic Cleaners of Pelican
Landing, Inc., No. 2:16-cv-171-FtM-29CM, 2017 WL 632510,
at *1 (M.D. Fla. Feb. 16, 2017) (citing Olesen-Frayne v.
Olesen, 2:09-cv-49-FtM-29DNF, 2009 WL 3048451, at *2
(M.D. Fla. Sept. 21, 2009)).
case, Plaintiff requests an hourly rate of $500.00. In
support, Plaintiff states that this Court previously awarded
him $500.00 per hour in a FLSA matter. (Doc. 58 at 7
(citing Carruega v. Steve's Painting, Inc., No.
2:16-CV-715-FtM-29CM, Doc. 29)). Plaintiff also relies on the
Laffey Matrix, which she alleges reflects an hourly rate of
$826 for an attorney with over twenty years of experience.
(Id.; see also Doc. 58-3 at 1). Defendant
argues in turn that the Court's previous decision to
award Plaintiff's counsel $500 an hour was made on an
unopposed motion. (Doc. 63 at 6). Defendant further
contends “the Laffey Matrix is not relevant evidence of
the prevailing market rate.” (Id. at 7).
Moreover, Defendant argues the requested rate is
“completely unreasonable for this case, where the
issues involved were simple and the litigation was not
complex.” (Id. at 8).
is correct that the Laffey Matrix is not relevant evidence of
the prevailing market rate. In fact, jurists in this Court
have declined to rely on the Laffey Matrix as competent
evidence of a reasonable hourly rate. See, e.g.,
Church of Our Savior v. City of Jacksonville Beach,
108 F.Supp.3d 1259, 1273 n. 17 (M.D. Fla. 2015) (“The
Laffey Matrix is not competent evidence of the prevailing
market rate . . ., as one page submitted indicates that the
matrix is meant to reflect an appropriate rate for attorneys
in Washington D.C.”); Walker v. Ruben &
Rosenthal, Inc., No. 6:13-CV-798-Orl-18DAB, 2013 WL
5720248, at *5 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 21, 2013) (declining to rely
on the Laffey Matrix); Holman v. Student Loan Xpress,
Inc., 778 F.Supp.2d 1306, 1312 (M.D. Fla. 2011) (same).
this Court has previously determined “rates in the Fort
Myers area for FLSA cases range from $275.00 to
$375.00.” Worthen v. Buckshot Cable, Inc., No.
2:12-CV-57-FTM-38UAM, 2013 WL 3070847, at *2 (M.D. Fla. June
17, 2013). While this Court recently awarded a rate of $400
an hour to an attorney with more than fifteen years'
experience as a labor and employment attorney, the Court
noted that the rate was “on the higher end of
reasonable in the Fort Myers Division” and that the
rate was “not disputed by defendants.” Adams
v. Fritz Martin Cabinetry, LLC, No.
2:18-CV-83-FtM-99MRM, 2018 WL 4215892, at *4 (M.D. Fla. Sept.
5, 2018); see also Bishop v. VIP Transp. Grp.,
LLC, No. 6:15-CV-2118-ORL-22KRS, 2017 WL 1533834, at *4
(M.D. Fla. Apr. 7, 2017) (finding that $350 an hour was a
reasonable hourly rate for an attorney with more than twenty
years' experience as a labor and employment attorney);
Wise v. Bravo Foods LLC, No. 6:15-CV-1199-Orl-41DAB,
2016 WL 4203859, at *2 (M.D. Fla. July 8, 2016) (noting that
the Court generally applies a rate of $350 an hour for
“experienced counsel”). Given the lack of
complexity in this case and taking into account the length of
counsel's experience handling cases of this nature, the
Undersigned recommends that the Court find $350.00 to be a
reasonable hourly rate.
Number of Hours Expended
second step in the lodestar analysis is determining what
hours were reasonably expended in pursuing the action. Fee
applicants must exercise “billing judgment” and
exclude hours “that would be unreasonable to bill to a
client.” ACLU of Ga., 168 F.3d at 428 (quoting
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983)).
“[A] court may reduce excessive, redundant or otherwise
unnecessary hours in the exercise of billing judgment.”
Galdames v. N & D Inv. Corp., 432 Fed. App'x
801, 806 (11th Cir. 2011) (emphasis omitted) (quoting
Perkins v. Mobile Hous. Bd., 847 F.2d 735, 738 (11th
Cir. 1988)). “When a district court finds the number of
hours claimed is unreasonably high, the court has two
choices: it may conduct an hour-by-hour analysis or it may
reduce the requested hours with an across-the-board
cut.” Bivins v. Wrap It Up, Inc., 548 F.3d
1348, 1350 (11th Cir. 2008).
and proof from fee opponents' concerning hours that
should be excluded must be specific and ‘reasonably
precise.'” ACLU of Ga., 168 F.3d at 428
(quoting Norman, 836 F.2d at 1301). Consequently,
“a fee opponent's failure to explain exactly which
hours he views as unnecessary or duplicative is generally
viewed as fatal, ” and therefore, “all hours to
which the [fee opponents] have not made an objection will be
accepted.” Wales, 192 F.Supp.2d at 1320.
alleges that counsel invested a total of 23.8 hours to reach
a settlement of $500 in Plaintiff's favor. (SeeDoc.
58-1 at 3). Defendant challenges this amount of time as
excessive and has identified several entries it argues should
be reduced or excluded. (Doc. 63 at 10-13). The
Undersigned has reviewed both the billing entries and
Defendant's objections to these hours and concludes that
not all hours billed are reasonable. The Undersigned addresses
Defendant's objections below.
April 10, 2017 & August ...