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Yong Fang Lin v. Tsuru of Bernards

July 8, 2011

YONG FANG LIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TSURU OF BERNARDS, LLC, AND CHIA MAO LIU,
DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thompson, U.S.D.J.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter has come before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion for Attorneys' Fees [docket # 41]. Defendants have responded to the motion [40]. The Court has decided the motion upon consideration of the parties' written submissions, without holding oral argument, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b). For the reason given below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a former employee of the restaurant owned and operated by Defendants, filed this action alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. Specifically, Plaintiff contended that he had worked at the Defendants' restaurant for over thirteen months-as opposed to the three days alleged by Defendants-and that he had not been paid a premium for overtime hours worked as required by the overtime provisions of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 207(a). (Compl. 3--4) [1]. Following a three-day trial, the jury found that Plaintiff had worked at the restaurant for thirteen months, that the Defendants had violated the overtime provisions of the FLSA, and that the violations were willful. (Special Jury Verdict as to Liability 1--2) [34]; (Special Jury Verdict as to Willfulness 1) [36]. Accordingly, this Court entered final judgment in Plaintiff's favor in the amount of $9,466.28-a damages amount stipulated to by the parties. (Order 1--2, Apr. 27, 2011) [39]. Plaintiff has now filed this motion seeking attorneys' fees as a prevailing party under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).

III. ANALYSIS

A.Attorneys' Fees

1. Legal Standard

Under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), the Court is authorized to award "a reasonable attorney's fees to be paid by the defendant and costs of the action." To arrive at a "reasonable attorney's fee" award, this Court applies the "lodestar formula," "which requires multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate." Maldonado v. Houston, 256 F.3d 181, 184 (3d Cir. 2001). In determining the proper hourly rate, the Court should consider prevailing market rates and the skill and experience of the prevailing party's attorneys. Id. In calculating the number of hours, the Court must determine whether the hours set out in the prevailing party's affidavits are reasonable considering the particular tasks described, excluding those hours that are "excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary." Id. (quoting Pub. Int. Research Grp. of N.J., Inc. v. Windall, 51 F.3d 1179, 1188 (3d Cir. 1995)). However, the Court may not sua sponte reduce a request for attorney's fees. Bell v. United Princeton Props. Inc., 884 F.2d 713, 719 (3d Cir. 1989). Instead, the party opposing the fee has the burden to challenge, "'by affidavit or brief with sufficient specificity to give fee applicants notice, the reasonableness of the requested fee.'" Loughner v. Univ. of Pittsburgh, 260 F.3d 173, 178 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892 F.2d 1177, 1183 (3rd Cir. 1990)). "Where an opposing party lodges a sufficiently specific objection to an aspect of a fee award, the burden is on the party requesting the fees to justify the size of its award." Interfaith Cmty. Org. v. Honeywell Intern., Inc., 426 F.3d 694, 713 (3d Cir. 2005). Ultimately, "the district court has discretion in determining the amount of a fee award. This is appropriate in view of the district court's superior understanding of the litigation and the desirability of avoiding frequent appellate review of what essentially are factual matters." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983).

2. Application

In total, Plaintiff's attorneys contend that they spent 351.8 hours working on this case, incurring $111,540 in attorneys' fees. Those fees break down as follows:

* Lead counsel, C.K. Lee, spent 247.80 hours at an hourly rate of $350 for a total fee of $86,730.

* Mr. Lee's partner, Robert Kraselnik, spent 49.60 hours at an hourly rate of $350 for ...


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