United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
WANDA FAYE JONES, KELLY DORRIS PENDERGRASS, and TIFFANY SHEA JONES, Plaintiffs,
ELITE EMERGENCY SERVICES, LLC, AND SAMUEL C. CLEMMONS, Defendants
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court are Plaintiffs' Motion for Pre-Judgment
Interest (Doc. No. 315) and Plaintiffs' Motion for
Attorneys' Fees, Expenses and Costs (Doc. No. 318). For
the reasons stated herein, Plaintiffs' Motion for
Pre-Judgment Interest will be denied, and Plaintiffs'
Motion for Attorneys' Fees, Expenses and Costs will be
granted in part, as explained in and subject to the reasons
action has a long and especially contentious history. The
case was filed, pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), by former employees of Defendant Elite
Emergency Services, LLC. On December 18, 2013, the Court
approved the parties' proposed Settlement Agreement (Doc.
No. 138). The Court held that the case would not be dismissed
until the Court received notice from Plaintiffs that
Defendants provided payment of all amounts due under the
Settlement Agreement (Doc. No. 140). The Court expressly
retained jurisdiction over the case, although the case was
administratively closed. (Id.)
31, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Entry of Final
Judgment (Doc. No. 143), in which Plaintiffs alleged that
Defendants had failed to make the payments required by the
Settlement Agreement. Plaintiffs asked the Court to enter a
final judgment against the Defendants for which execution
could issue, if necessary. (Id.) The Motion for
Entry of Final Judgment was referred to the Magistrate Judge
for a Report and Recommendation (Doc. No. 156). After several
supplemental filings, the Magistrate Judge recommended that
Plaintiffs' Motion for Entry of Final Judgment be granted
(Doc. No. 166). In their Objection to the recommendation of
the Magistrate Judge, Defendants argued that the Settlement
Agreement had been induced by Plaintiffs' fraud, and they
sought relief from the Court's earlier Order approving
the settlement. After numerous additional filings, the Court
adopted and approved the Report and Recommendation and
granted Plaintiffs' Motion for Entry of Final Judgment
(Doc. No. 178). As part of that Order, the Court denied
Defendants' request for relief from the earlier Order
approving the settlement. (Id.)
Defendants filed a Rule 60(b) Motion for Relief and Motion to
Set Aside Settlement (Doc. No. 179), accompanied by 819 pages
of supporting documents (Doc. No. 182). Following a myriad of
additional documents from both sides, the case was
transferred to the undersigned (Doc. No. 207). The Court set
an evidentiary hearing on Defendants' Motion, before
which the parties filed an extraordinary number of motions,
including an amended Motion for Relief from Order and to Set
Aside Settlement (Doc. No. 264), asking the Court to set
aside the settlement based upon “newly discovered
evidence” of fraud. See generally Doc. Nos.
209-296. The hearing took place on March 16, 2017, and on
March 21, 2017, this Court entered an Order referring the
matter to the Magistrate Judge for alternative dispute
resolution (Doc. No. 297). In that Order, the Court agreed to
refrain from ruling on Defendants' Motion for Relief
under Rule 60 for sixty days. (Id.) The alternative
dispute resolution process was not successful (Doc. No. 302).
Even though the Court had not yet ruled on Defendants'
Motion, Plaintiffs filed yet another Motion for Entry and
Enforcement of Final Judgment against Defendants (Doc. No.
303). By Order dated July 24, 2017, the Court denied
Defendants' Amended Motion for Relief, finding that
Defendants had not established fraud under Rule 60, and
denied Plaintiffs' Motion to Enforce Judgment as moot
(Doc. No. 311). Plaintiffs have now moved for pre-judgment
interest, attorneys' fees, expenses and costs.
parties' Settlement Agreement provides, among other
things, that Defendants will pay to Plaintiffs $125, 000,
$60, 000 of which would be for attorneys' fees. (Doc. No.
137 at ¶ 3). It further provides that, upon complete
satisfaction of all obligations required in paragraph 3,
Plaintiffs' attorneys' fees and costs will be
completely satisfied and Plaintiffs will make no further
claim of either attorneys' fees or expenses whatsoever
with the exception of any fees and expenses contemplated and
set forth in paragraph 11. (Id. at ¶ 7).
Paragraph 11 states:
In the event any party breaches the terms of this Agreement,
the non-breaching party shall be entitled to reasonable
attorneys' fees, costs, and litigation expenses for any
legal action resulting from said breach. These attorneys'
fees, costs, and litigation expenses shall be in addition to
any other legal or equitable remedy available. The proper
venue for any legal action resulting from a breach of this
Agreement shall be the Chancery Court of Davidson County,
(Doc. No. 137 at ¶ 11).
ask the Court for prejudgment interest, computed at 10% per
annum, on the $125, 000.00 judgment awarded them on March 2,
2016 (Doc. No. 178). Plaintiffs seek prejudgment interest
calculated from the Court's March 28, 2014 Order
approving the Settlement Agreement (Doc. No. 140) until the
Court's March 2, 2016 Order (Doc. No. 178) granting
judgment against Defendants. The Settlement Agreement makes
no mention of pre-judgment interest. Plaintiffs argue that
interest should be awarded to them because of Defendants'
breach of the Settlement Agreement. This Court has never held
that Defendants breached the Settlement Agreement, however.
Indeed, Plaintiffs did not allege a claim against Defendants
for breach of the Settlement Agreement. When Defendants
failed to pay as promised under the Settlement Agreement,
Plaintiffs sought an award of Final Judgment to enforce the
Settlement Agreement against the Defendants in this FLSA
action, not an award for breach of contract.
award of pre-judgment interest is within the trial
court's discretion. Bennett v. Highland Graphics,
Inc., 2017 WL 4512470 at * 5 (M.D. Tenn. Oct. 10, 2017).
Equity is the guiding principle for exercising that
discretion: “Simply stated, the court must decide
whether the award of prejudgment interest is fair, given the
particular circumstances of the case.” Id.
(quoting Myint v. Allstate Ins. Co., 970 S.W.2d 920,
927 (Tenn. 1998)). The purpose of awarding prejudgment
interest is to fully compensate a plaintiff for the loss of
the use of funds to which he or she was legally entitled, not
to penalize a defendant for wrongdoing. Id.;
Amsurg Glendale, Inc. v. Glendale Surgery Partners,
2017 WL 5749670 at * 5 (M.D. Tenn. March 22, 2017) (also
case, Defendants challenged the Settlement Agreement, after
it was approved, based upon allegedly new information
concerning alleged fraud in the Settlement Agreement's
inducement. This Court held that Defendants failed to
establish fraud under Rule 60(b)(3) (Doc. No. 311 at 3).This
Court did not hold, as argued by Plaintiffs, that