United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
Campbell Magistrate Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
JEFFERY S. FRENSLEY, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the Court is the Plaintiffs' Motion for
Attorneys' Fees and Costs (Docket No. 53) filed pursuant
to the Order of August 15, 2017 (Docket No. 43) directing
Plaintiffs to file a motion for attorneys' fees related
to an evidentiary hearing in this matter and the filing of
the instant motion. The Motion was referred to the
undersigned to prepare a Report and Recommendation. Docket
No. 63. For the reasons stated herein, the undersigned
recommends that the Plaintiffs' motion be GRANTED in
part, as explained in and subject to the reasons herein.
an action for damages brought under the Fair Labor Standards
Act (“FLSA”) and as a collective action on behalf
of similarly situated individuals who worked as home
caregivers for Defendants. Docket No. 1. The court granted
Plaintiffs' unopposed motion for conditional
certification, approval of notice and consent forms and
ordered disclosure of contact information for former and
current employees. Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a motion
requesting an evidentiary hearing to determine the propriety
of sanctions against Defendants based upon the alleged
intentional interference by Defendant DeBlasio related to the
notice and opt-in process alleging he intimidated potential
opt-in plaintiffs to decline to participate in the action.
Docket No. 33. Following the evidentiary hearing, the court
found that Defendant DeBlasio “interfered in the notice
and opt-in process.” Docket No. 43. The Court ordered
in part that “the Plaintiffs may file a motion for
attorneys' fees incurred by them in connection with this
motion and hearing. The court will award reasonable
attorneys' fees.” Id. Plaintiffs
thereafter filed the instant motion along with declarations,
exhibits and supporting memorandum of law. Docket Nos. 53,
53-1 and 54. Defendants have filed a response in opposition
to the motion. Docket No. 58. Plaintiffs filed a reply.
Docket No. 61.
the Plaintiffs' entitlement to attorneys' fees has
previously been determined by the district court, the only
issue is what constitutes a reasonable attorney fee in the
instant case. A reasonable attorney fee is generally
calculated by utilizing the “lodestar method.”
The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless v.
Hustead, 831 F.3d 686, 702 (6th Cir. 2016).
“Lodestar” is the number of hour reasonably
expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly
rate. Id. Applicants seeking attorney's fees
must exercise billing judgment, and the court may exclude
hours that were not “reasonably expended.”
Id. The court has broad discretion in determining
the amount of a fee award. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 103
S.Ct. 1933, 1944 (1983). In addition to consideration of the
lodestar figure courts may consider other factors to
determine if the fee is reasonable. Cramblit v.
Fikse, 33 F.3d 633 (6th Cir. 1994).
Reasonableness of the Hourly Rate
court has a broad discretion in determining a reasonable
hourly rate for an attorney. The Northeast Ohio
Coalition, 831 F.3d at 715. “Ordinarily courts
look to ‘[rates] prevailing in the community for
similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill,
experience and reputation.'” Hadix v.
Johnson, 65 F.3d 532, 536 (6th Cir.
1995)(quoting Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 896, n.
11, 104 S.Ct. 1541 (1984)). There is a presumption in favor
of the community market rates. See, e.g., Blum 465 U.S. at
895, 104 S.Ct. 1541 (“'[R]easonable fees' . . .
are to be calculated according to the prevailing market rates
in the relevant community, regardless of whether plaintiff is
represented by private or nonprofit counsel.”);
Adcock-Ladd v. Secretary of Treasure, 227 F.3d 343,
350 (6th Cir. 2000)(“A trial court, in
calculating the “reasonable hourly rate”
component of the lodestar computation, should initially
assess the “prevailing market rate in the relevant
community.'” (quoting Blum, 465 U.S. at
895, 104 S.Ct. 1541)).
determine the local market rate, courts should consider a
combination of its own expertise and judgment and may
consider proof of rates charged in the community under
similar circumstances, opinion evidence of reasonable rates,
and the attorney's actual billing rate and fee awards
from prior cases. See Wells v. Corporate Accounts
Receivable, 683 F.Supp.2d 600, 602 (W. D. Mich. 2010).
seek an award of attorneys' fees in the amount of $22,
675.50 and $589.90 for litigation expenses. Docket No. 53.
Plaintiffs utilized three attorneys and two paralegals in
relation to this matter. Docket No. 53-1, pp. 6-7. The court
will address the hourly rate as to each in turn. Plaintiffs
contend that the billing rate for M. Reid Estes is $520.00
per hour which they assert is reasonable based upon his over
thirty years of experience emphasizing employment matters.
Id. Plaintiffs seek an hourly rate of $475.00 for
Peter F. Klett based on his over twenty years of litigation
experience. Plaintiffs seek a billing rate of $315.00 per
hour for R. Cameron Caldwell based on over seven years of
litigation experience in FLSA collective action cases.
Id. Plaintiffs seek a billing rate of $190.00 per
hour for senior paralegal Pam Partee and $180.00 per hour for
paralegal Jennifer Council. Id.
support of their argument for the reasonableness of the
requested rates, Plaintiffs rely on the affidavit of Paul
Klett which contends that the hourly rates are reasonable; an
affidavit from attorney Robert Boston filed in a separate
action filed decided in 2015 by Judge Nixon related to a fee
request by Reid Estes that Mr. Estes' then requested
hourly rate of $430.00 per hour was reasonable; and a copy of
the billing statements of Plaintiffs' team for their
work. Docket No. 54, 54-1 and 2. Defendant argues that the
“self-serving statements” of Plaintiffs'
counsel are insufficient especially in the absence of
additional evidence such as guidelines or surveys of rates in
the market to aid the court in determining the prevailing
rate. While Defendants suggest no alternative rate, they
contend the court should use its own knowledge and experience
and reduce the rates accordingly. Docket No. 58, p. 4.
“prevailing market rate” for attorneys in this
district has not been conclusively set. In 2013, this Court
reported that the rate for experienced attorneys seeking
recovery of fees in federal fee shifting statutes in the
Middle District of Tennessee generally ranges between $250.00
to $275.00 per hour. McCutcheon v. Finkelstein Kern
Steinberg & Cunningham, No. 3-11-cv-0696, 2013 WL
4521016, at *2 (M. D. Tenn. Aug. 27, 2013)(Sharp, J.)(setting
attorney's fees at $275.00); see also, Siddle v.
Crants, No. 3:09-cv-00175, 2013 WL 1245678, at *16 (M.D.
Tenn, March 26, 2013)(Trauger, J.)(same). In 2014, this Court
found that $395.00 per hour was a reasonable fee. Stewart
v. CUS Nashville, LLC, 3:11-cv-342, 2014 WL 116593, at
*8 (M. D. Tenn. January 10, 2014)(Trauger, J.); Osborne
v. Nicholas, Fin., Inc. No. 3:12-cv-00185, 2014 WL
6871401, at *4 (M. D. Tenn. December 5, 2014)(Bryant, J.). In
2015, this Court adopted the rate of $395 per hour as the
high end rate for experienced attorneys in this jurisdiction
specifically authorizing that rate for Mr. Estes. Melton
et al. v. VIP Home Nursing and Rehabilitation Service, d/b/a/
CareAll, et al., 3:10-cv-00691, Order M. D. Tenn,
January 8, 2015(Nixon, ...