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Pena v. RDI, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

July 10, 2019

MELIDO PENA, Plaintiff,
v.
RDI, LLC, a Florida Limited Liability Company, Defendant.

          ORDER

          AMANDA ARNOLD SAXSONE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Melido Pena seeks an award of attorney's fees and costs. (Docs. 87, 90).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pena initiated this action against RDI, LLC (RDI) for unpaid overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). On April 3, 2019, a jury awarded Pena $20, 979.25 in damages. (Doc. 77). An April 23, 2019 Order added liquidated damages also in the amount of $20, 979.25. (Doc. 83). Pena now seeks his attorney's fees and costs. (Docs. 87, 90). RDI did not respond.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Attorney's Fees

         The principle that guides motions for attorney's fees is the American Rule: Each party must pay its own attorney's fees unless a statute or contract provides otherwise. Baker Botts LLP v. ASARCO LLC, 135 S.Ct. 2158, 2164 (2015) (quotation and citation omitted). In FLSA cases, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) mandates an award of reasonable attorney's fees and costs to a prevailing plaintiff. Weisel v. Singapore Joint Venture, Inc., 602 F.2d 1185, 1191 (5th Cir. 1979). A prevailing plaintiff is “one who has been awarded some relief by the court” and “has prevailed on the merits of at least some of his claims.” Buckhannon Bd. & Care Home, Inc. v. Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598, 603 (2001) (citing Hanrahan v. Hampton, 446 U.S. 754, 758, (1980)). The court entered judgment in favor of Pena on May 15, 2019, making Pena the prevailing party in this case. (Doc. 86). Therefore, Pena may collect the value of his reasonable attorney's fees from RDI.

         The court uses the “lodestar” method to determine the reasonable fee amount. The lodestar method calculates “the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). The burden is on the party seeking fees to submit adequate documentation. Id. Once the fee-seeking party submits adequate documentation supporting the hours worked, the court excludes unreasonably “excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary” hours. Id. at 434.

         The court must also determine a reasonable hourly rate. Duckworth v. Whisenant, 97 F.3d 1393, 1396 (11th Cir. 1996). “A reasonable hourly rate is the prevailing market rate in the relevant legal community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skills, experience, and reputation.” Norman v. Housing Authority of the City of Montgomery, 836 F.2d 1292, 1299 (11th Cir. 1988). The burden is on the party seeking these fees to submit “satisfactory evidence that the requested rate is in line with prevailing market rates.” Id. After multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by the reasonable hourly rate, the court has the discretion to raise or lower the fee award “depending upon a number of factors, including the quality of the results and representation of the litigation.” Duckworth, 97 F.3d at 1396.

         Pena seeks an attorney's fee award of $91, 343.25. Broken down, this award includes 208.65 attorney hours at an hourly rate of $425 each for Attorneys De Arcangelis and Murthy and 25.4 paralegal hours at an hourly rate of $105 for paralegal work. (Doc. 87 at Att. 1). Pena's counsel submitted detailed affidavits in support of this request. (Id.). See also Femia v. Melbourne Park, LLC, No. 6:15-cv-113-Orl-22GJK, 2015 WL 2084725, at *3 (M.D. Fla. April 27, 2015) (approving Attorney De Arcangelis's $425 hourly rate). Pena's counsel also reduced their billed hours to account for potentially excessive or redundant billing. (Doc. 87 at Att. 1). RDI has not responded to this motion, and its time to do so has expired. Therefore, Pena's motion is presumed to be unopposed. Carruega v. Steve's Painting, Inc., No. 2:16-cv-715-FtM-29CM, 2017 WL 3387228, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 7, 2017).

         Based on a review of the submissions, the court finds the requested hourly rate and hours expended to be reasonable. The requested rate is reasonable in light of the attorneys' credentials, their experience in this area of law resulting in their efficiency in completing tasks, their success at trial, and the opposing party's failure to object to this request. The request for attorney's fees is granted.

         B. Costs

         Pena also seeks taxable costs of $3, 954.12. (Doc. 87 at Att. 1). Again, because RDI has not responded, Pena's motion is presumed unopposed. Carruega, No. 2:16-cv-715-FtM-29CM, 2017 WL 3387228, at *3.

         Absent explicit statutory or contractual language, a court only may award the prevailing party costs outlined in 28 U.S.C. Sections 1821 and 1920. Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1); Crawford Fitting Co. v. J.T. Gibbons, Inc., 482 U.S. 437, 445 (1987); Maris Distrib. Co. v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 302 F.3d 1207, 1225 (11th Cir. 2002). The costs a court may award under Section 1920 “are limited to relatively minor, incidental expenses.” Taniguchi v. Kan.Pac. Saipan, Ltd., 566 U.S. 560, 573 (2012). As a result, costs awarded under Section 1920 “almost always amount to less than the successful litigant's total ...


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