United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Ocala Division
PAMELA RIZZO-ALDERSON, DEENA BENEHALEY, EVELYN SARNO, NICOLE RICHARDSON, TAMI YOUNG, TAMMY REED and MURPHY BLACK, Plaintiffs,
EIHAB H. TAWFIK and EIHAB H. TAWFIK Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
R. LAMMENS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' motions for
attorney's fees and costs (Docs. 55 and 56), which were
referred by the District Judge for preparation of a Report
and Recommendation. After consideration of the papers and
applicable law, and in the absence of any objection filed by
Defendant, Eihab H. Tawfik, I submit that Plaintiffs'
motions should be granted in part and that they should be
awarded attorney's fees in the amount of $15,
106.00 and costs in the amount of
2017, Plaintiffs initiated this proposed class action
alleging minimum wage violations under the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the Florida
Constitution against Defendants Eihab H. Tawfik, M.D., P.A.,
d/b/a/ Christ Medical Center (“Christ Medical
Center”) and Eihab H. Tawfik. On April 16, 2018, the Court
stayed this action as to Defendant Christ Medical Center
based on the filing of a Suggestion of Bankruptcy. (Doc. 36).
The case proceeded against Defendant Tawfik. On May 21, 2019,
the Court entered final default judgment as to Plaintiffs
Tami Young, Murphy Black, and Deena Benehaley and awarded
each damages in the amount of $648.00, plus an equal amount
of liquidated damages, for a total amount of $1, 296.00; and
final default judgment as to Plaintiff Pamela Rizzo-Alderson
and awarded damages in the amount of $259.20, plus liquidated
damages, for a total amount of $518.00. (Doc. 51,
Now, these prevailing Plaintiffs have filed motions for
attorney's fees and costs. Defendant Tawfik has filed no
entitlement to recover attorney's fees arose by virtue of
their claims brought under the FLSA. The FLSA requires a
court to award prevailing employees reasonable attorney's
fees and costs in unpaid overtime wages cases. 29 U.S.C.
determining a reasonable attorney's fee, the Court
applies the federal lodestar approach which is calculated by
multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended on the
litigation by the reasonable hourly rate for the services
provided by counsel for the prevailing party. Loranger v.
Stierheim, 10 F.3d 776, 781 (11th Cir. 1994)
(per curiam). “[T]he fee applicant bears the burden of
establishing entitlement to an award and documenting the
appropriate hours expended and hourly rates.”
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983). Once
the court has determined the lodestar, it may adjust the
amount upward or downward based upon a number of factors,
including the results obtained. Norman v. Housing
Authority of the City of Montgomery, 836 F.2d 1292, 1302
(11th Cir. 1988)
the computation of a fee award is necessarily an exercise of
judgment, because ‘[t]here is no precise rule or
formula for making these determinations.'”
Villano v. City of Boynton Beach, 254 F.3d 1302,
1305 (11th Cir. 2001) (quoting Hensley,
461 U.S. at 436). Additionally, the Court is “an expert
on the question [of attorney's fees] and may consider its
own knowledge and experience concerning reasonable and proper
fees and may form an independent judgment either with or
without the aid of witnesses as to value.”
Norman, 836 F.2d at 1303 (quoting Campbell v.
Green, 112 F.2d 143, 144 (5th Cir. 1940)).
Keeping in mind that “[c]ourts are not authorized to be
generous with the money of others, and it is as much the duty
of courts to see that excessive fees and expenses are not
awarded as it is to see that an adequate amount is
awarded.” ACLU of Georgia v. Barnes, 168 F.3d
423, 428 (11th Cir. 1999).
Reasonableness of Hours Expended
the Court must determine the number of hours reasonably
expended on the litigation. The attorney fee applicant bears
the initial burden of submitting evidence sufficient to allow
the court to confirm that the requested fees are not
excessive. ACLU of Georgia v. Barnes, 168 F.3d 423, 428
(11th Cir. 1999). Then, “'objections and proof
from fee opponents' concerning hours that should be
excluded must be specific and ‘reasonably
precise.'” Id. Attorneys “must
exercise their own billing judgment to exclude any hours that
are excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.”
Galdames v. N&D Inv. Corp., 432 Fed.Appx. 801,
806 (11th Cir. 2011). If applicants do not
exercise billing judgment, courts are obligated to do it for
them. Courts may cut specific hours, or may engage in
“an across-the-board cut, ” so long as the court
adequately explains its reasons for doing so. Id.
Plaintiffs seek compensation for 60.4 hours of legal work on
this matter. In addition to their sworn motion, Plaintiffs
simply filed a ledger of attorney time records, which
reflects work performed by Mr. Lechner and “S.
Allen” from June 26, 2017 through May 24, 2019. (Doc.
55 at 9-12). Plaintiffs' motion, however, does not
mention S. Allen, or even state whether he or she is a
paralegal or an associate. Accordingly, the time entries for
S. Allen-totaling 2.3 hours-should be deducted.
remaining time entries for Mr. Lechner fail to offer much
detail, and thus, it is difficult for the Court to determine
whether the time spent was reasonable and necessary. If an
applicant's documentation as to hours “is
inadequate, the district court may reduce the award
accordingly.” Scelta v. Delicatessen Support
Services, Inc., 203 F.Supp.2d 1328, 1331 (M.D. Fla.
2002) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424,
433 (1983)). Here, given the nature of this case, the limited
discovery and motion practice, and the fact that Plaintiffs
ultimately prevailed against Mr. Tawfik on default judgment,
the requested 58.1 hours are excessive. When, as here, the
Court finds the number of hours claimed to be unreasonably
high, “the court has two choices: it may conduct an
hour-by-hour analysis or it may reduce hours with an
across-the-board cut.” Bivens v. Wrap It Up,
Inc., 548 F.3d 1348, 1350 (11th Cir. 2008). Based on the
above circumstances, as well as the Court's own
experience and expertise, I submit that a reduction of the
requested fees by 20% to 46.48 hours is reasonable and