United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
VICTORIA PERALES, on her own behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated,
SIMPLY RIGHT, INC., a foreign profit corporation,
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
G. WILSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
CAUSE came on for consideration upon the Joint Motion for
Approval of Settlement Agreement and Entry of an Order of
Dismissal With Prejudice (Doc. 37) on the plaintiffs'
Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") claims that they
were not paid overtime compensation for hours worked in
excess of forty in a single workweek. The motion was referred
plaintiffs requested unpaid back wages at the applicable
overtime rate, liquidated damages, costs and attorney's
fees (Docs. 1, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26). The parties entered into
a settlement agreement in which the defendant agreed to pay a
total of $15, 000 to resolve this matter (Doc. 37, pp. 3-4).
Specifically, each plaintiff agrees to accept $500 in
compensatory and liquidated damages, except for the named
plaintiff, who will receive $5, 000 (id.)- The
remainder is an attorney's fee of $8, 000 (id.,
p. 4). Notably, the parties agreed upon the attorney's
fee separately and without regard to the amount paid to the
plaintiff (id., p. 5).
parties maintain that the settlement reflects a fair and
reasonable compromise of the plaintiffs claims under the
circumstances of this case (id., pp. 6-7). Because I
find the parties' settlement agreement . constitutes a
fair and reasonable compromise of this dispute, I recommend
that the motion be granted, and the case be dismissed with
under the FLSA may only be settled or compromised when the
Department of Labor supervises the payment of back wages or
when the district court enters a stipulated judgment
"after scrutinizing the settlement for fairness."
Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United
States. 679 F.2d 1350, 1352-53 (11th Cir.
1982). Therefore, in any FLS A case, the Court must review
the parties' settlement to determine whether it is
"a fair and reasonable resolution of a bona fide
dispute." Id. at 1355. The Court is also
required to ensure that counsel's fee is reasonable not
only so that counsel is compensated adequately, but so that
no conflict of interest arises between counsel's
compensation and the amount the employee recovers under the
settlement. See Silva v. Miller. 307 Fed.Appx. 349,
351 (11th Cir. 2009).
evaluating whether a compromise is fair and reasonable,
courts examine the following factors: (1) whether there was
fraud or collusion behind the settlement; (2) the complexity,
expense, and likely duration of the case; (3) the stage of
the proceedings; (4) the probability of plaintiffs success;
(5) the range of possible recovery and (6) counsel's
opinion. See Dees v. Hvdradry. Inc., 706
F.Supp.2d 1227, 1241 (M.D. Fla. 2010).
these factors in mind, I note that the parties settled this
matter after negotiations which considered, among other
things, the cost and time of continued litigation, and the
uncertainty and risks associated with continued litigation
(Doc. 37, pp. 6-7). The parties exchanged discovery and the
plaintiffs responded to court interrogatories (see
Docs. 37, pp. 6-7; 19-24; 26) which further shows that the
settlement was a well-informed decision. Significantly, the
defendant's "precarious financial position"
also created a "risk that continued litigation would
render Defendant unable to pay all monies to any
Plaintiffs...[thereby] leaving Plaintiffs with an essentially
worthless judgment, even if they prevailed in the
litigation" (Doc. 37, pp. 5, 7).
both parties have been represented by competent counsel
throughout the proceedings, during which they exchanged
extensive documentation and participated in a one-half day
mediation before an experienced mediator (Docs. 35; 37, pp.
6-7). Moreover, it was not until months after the mediation
that the parties reached a resolution (see Docs. 35,
37), which indicates that counsel vigorously advocated for
their respective clients and did not rush into a settlement.
Accordingly, on the facts of this case, I find the settlement
reflects "a reasonable compromise of disputed issues
[rather] than a mere waiver of statutory rights brought about
by an employer's overreaching." DeGraff v. SMA
Behavioral Health Servs. Inc., 945 F.Supp.2d 1324.1328
(MD. Fla. 2013), quoting Lynn's Food Stores. Inc. v.
United States, supra. 679 F.2d at 1354.
the attorney's fee, the plaintiff did not provide time
sheets detailing counsel's time, or the hourly rate,
although counsel stated that the total attorney's fee in
this matter was $9, 375, which they compromised as part of
the settlement process (Doc. 37 p. 4). The lack of additional
information, however, does not undermine the Court's
ability to evaluate the reasonableness of the parties'
settlement as I do not find the amount of the attorney's
fee to be unreasonable on its face. See DeGraff v. SMA
Behavioral Health Servs. Inc., supra. 945
F.Supp.2d at 1329.
courts in this district have agreed that:
if the parties submit a proposed FLS A settlement that, (1)
constitutes a compromise of the plaintiffs claims; (2) makes
full and adequate disclosure of the terms of settlement,
including the factors and reasons considered in reaching same
and justifying the compromise of the plaintiffs claims; and
(3) represents that the plaintiffs attorneys' fee was
agreed upon separately and without regard to the amount paid
to the plaintiff, then, unless the settlement does not appear
reasonable on its face or there is reason to believe that the
plaintiffs recovery was adversely affected by the amount of
fees paid to his attorney, the Court will approve the
settlement without separately considering the reasonableness
of the fee to be paid to plaintiff s counsel.
Bonetti v. Embarq Mgmt. Co.. 715 F.Supp.2d 1222,
1228 (M.D. Fla. 2009); see also Mason v. Wyndham Vacation
Ownership. Inc., 2012 WL 570060, at *3 (M.D. Fla. 2012);
Church v. Conrad Yelvington Distrib., Inc., 2011 WL
6002519, at *2 (M.D. Fla. 2011). Those factors are satisfied
here (see Doc. 3 7). Therefore, "there is no
reason to assume that the lawyer's fee has influenced the
reasonableness of the plaintiffs settlement."
Bonetti v. Embarq Mgmt. Co., supra. 715
F.Supp.2d at 1228. In sum, I find the terms of the settlement
agreement are fair, just, and in accordance with the FLS A.
See Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States.
supra. 679 F.2d at 1352-53.
I recommend that the Joint Motion for Approval of Settlement
Agreement and Entry of an Order of Dismissal With Prejudice
(Doc. 37) be GRANTED, and this case be dismissed with