United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
NATASHA GRAYSON, Individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
MADISON COUNTY, TENNESSEE, Defendant.
ORDER PARTIALLY GRANTING JOINT MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF
SETTLEMENT AND MODIFYING ATTORNEY'S FEE REQUEST
ANDERSON CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court for consideration of the Joint
Motion for Approval of Settlement. (ECF No. 124.) The Court,
having been fully advised of the terms and conditions of the
Settlement Agreement in this matter, it is hereby ORDERED as
parties' request for approval of their Settlement
Agreement resolving all claims is PARTIALLY
GRANTED. The Court finds that the agreed-upon terms
and conditions of settlement of this litigation arising under
the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), as set
forth in the Settlement Agreement, except as discussed below
concerning the proposed attorney's fee for class counsel,
are fair and reasonable under the circumstances, and the
Settlement Agreement is hereby approved with the following
FLSA provides that “[t]he court in such action shall,
in addition to any judgment awarded to the plaintiff or
plaintiffs, allow a reasonable attorney's fee to be paid
by the defendant, and costs of the action.” 29 U.S.C.
§ 216(b). An award of attorney's fees under §
216(b) is mandatory. See Smith v. Serv. Master
Corp., 592 Fed.Appx. 363, 367 (6th Cir. 2014) (citations
omitted). In determining the amount of any award under the
FLSA, courts start with the lodestar amount: the number of
hours worked times a reasonable hourly rate. Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983).
counsel seeks $500, 000 in attorney's fees out of a $1.25
million class settlement. This amount represents 40% of the
total settlement. Plaintiff's counsel has submitted
documentation under seal concerning the total amount of
attorney hours worked (490 hours) and total amount of
paralegal hours worked (348 hours). Counsel has included his
own affidavit and a copy of his fee agreement with Plaintiff
which allows him to recover the greater of 40% of the total
amount recovered or the amount of hours worked at the rate of
$400 for each attorney hour and $125 for each paralegal hour.
Using the hourly rates, Counsel would be entitled to $196,
000 for attorney time and $43, 500 for paralegal time for a
total of $239, 500 in fees. In the present case, the Court
finds that the hours expended by Counsel and his paralegal
and their hourly rates are reasonable. Therefore, the
lodestar amount in this matter is $239, 500.
calculation “does not end the inquiry, ” however.
Id. at 434. The Court also must look to “other
considerations that may lead the district court to adjust the
fee upward or downward” - “the most critical
factor” of which “is the degree of success
obtained.” Id. at 434, 436. Other factors that
may be considered are (1) the time and labor required; (2)
the novelty and difficulty of the questions; (3) the skill
requisite to perform the legal service properly; (4) the
preclusion of employment by the attorney due to acceptance of
the case; (5) the customary fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed
or contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by the client or
the circumstances; (8) the experience, reputation, and
ability of the attorney(s); (9) the undesirability of the
case; (10) the nature and length of the professional
relationship with the client; and (11) awards in similar
cases. See Adcock-Ladd v. Sec'y of Treasury, 227
F.3d 343, 349 (6th Cir. 2000) (citations
omitted).“The primary concern in an attorney
fee case is that the fee awarded be reasonable.”
Reed v. Rhodes, 179 F.3d 453, 471 (6th Cir. 1999).
present case, Plaintiff's Counsel achieved a great deal
of success on behalf of his clients which militates in favor
of an increase of the lodestar amount. Additionally, Counsel
undertook this case on a contingency basis, which means
Counsel took the risk of an unsuccessful outcome and no fee
of any kind. This factor favors granting an increase in the
lodestar amount. See, e.g., Hebert v.
Chesapeake Operating, Inc., 2019 WL 4574509 at *5 (S.D.
Ohio Sept. 20, 2019). And, the Court is familiar with
Counsel's “experience, reputation, and
ability” from his prior work in this Court.
“[w]hile FLSA collective and class matters are
inherently complex, ” the docket sheet in this matter
reflects no motion practice and a relatively quick
settlement; in fact, the case had not even reached the
conditional certification stage prior to
settlement. See Id. at *6 (distinguishing
between cases that involved “significant
litigation” as opposed to those with “little to
no motion practice”). Other courts have described
similar attorney's fee requests as an
“eyebrow-raising 40% fee.” See Id. at
**5 -7 (determining that “the requested fees of 40% of
the fund are not reasonable, ” noting that “[o]ur
sister Ohio district courts hold similarly, ” and
finding that “33% is typical for attorney's fees in
common fund, FLSA collective actions in this District, though
a fee award in a particular case may be higher or lower based
on unique circumstances in a particular case”). See
also Chapman v. Jet Mall, 2015 WL 2062099 at *3 (E.D.
Tenn. Apr. 30, 2015) (rejecting plaintiff's counsel's
request for a 40% attorney's fee as unreasonable and
awarding a lower amount).
Court finds that, as in Hebert and Chapman,
considering the applicable law and the facts presented, an
award of attorney's fees of 40% of the common fund is too
high and is, therefore, unreasonable. However, Plaintiff's
counsel is entitled to an increase in the lodestar amount of
$239, 500 based on the factors discussed above, and the Court
will increase that amount by $135, 500 for an award of $375,
000 in attorney's fees. This amount represents 30% of the
$1.25 million settlement.
summary, the joint motion for settlement approval is
PARTIALLY GRANTED. The motion is granted to
the extent that the parties seek approval of the total
settlement amount. The request for attorney's fees is
granted, but the amount is modified so that Plaintiff's
counsel is awarded attorney's fee in the amount of $375,
IS SO ORDERED.
 Many of these factors are
“subsumed within the initial calculation of hours
reasonably expended at a reasonable hourly rate.”