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Hendrix v. Hauling

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

January 8, 2019

JESSE HENDRIX PLAINTIFF
v.
EVERGREEN HAULING DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         Now before this Court is Plaintiff Jesse Hendrix's motion for attorney's fees and costs [12]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds the motion should be granted in part and denied in part; the Court awards $6, 000.75 in attorney's fees and $500.00 in costs.

         Background

         On June 12, 2018, Hendrix filed this suit against his employer, Evergreen Hauling, LLC, alleging that he was owed back wages for overtime work that Evergreen failed to pay him. On July 6, 2018, Evergreen offered to settle for what it says is the entire amount Hendrix claimed to be owed. On August 2, 2018, Hendrix accepted that offer. The parties moved the Court for approval of the settlement on December 10, 2018, and the Court approved the settlement on January 3, 2019.

         Presently pending is Hendrix's motion for attorney's fees and costs, where Hendrix asks to be awarded $8, 700.00 in fees and $575.00 in costs, based on 29 hours of work billed at a rate of $300 per hour. Evergreen objects the amount of fees and costs requested.

         Legal Standard for Attorney's Fees

         A prevailing party is entitled to reasonable attorney's fees under the Fair Labor Standards Act. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). The party seeking attorney's fees bears the burden of establishing the reasonableness of the hourly rate and the number of hours billed. Riley v. City of Jackson, Miss., 99 F.3d 757, 760 (5th Cir. 1996)

         The Court employs the lodestar method to calculate reasonable attorney's fees by "multiplying the number of hours reasonably spent on the case by an appropriate hourly rate in the community for such work." Saizan v. Delta Concrete Prod. Co., 448 F.3d 795, 799 (5th Cir. 2006). Once the lodestar figure is calculated, the Court determines whether it should be adjusted upwards or downwards using the Johnson factors. Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-18 (5th Cir. 1974).

         Analysis

         1. Reasonable Hourly Rate

         The Court first determines a reasonable hourly rate in the community for such work. Heidtman v. Cty. of El Paso, 171 F.3d 1038, 1043 (5th Cir. 1999) (citing Shipes v. Trinity Industries, 987 F.2d 311, 319-320 (5thr Cir. 1993)). Reasonable hourly rates are typically calculated through affidavits by attorneys practicing in the community in which the district court is located. Tollett v. City of Kemah, Tex., 285 F.3d 357, 368 (5th Cir. 2002). Hendrix's counsel supports his rate of $300 with the affidavits of two local attorneys. Ex. C, PL's Mem. in Support [Doc. 13-3]. Evergreen does not challenge that rate as unreasonable. The Court finds that a rate of $300 is reasonable for the type of work performed in this case within the community

         2. Reasonableness of Hours Billed

         The Court next determines whether the hours billed by Hendrix's counsel were reasonable. "In calculating the lodestar, '[t]he court should exclude all time that is excessive, duplicative, or inadequately documented.'" Combs v. City of Huntington, Tex., 829 F.3d 388, 392 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Jiminez v. Wood Cty., 621 F.3d 372, 379 (5th Cir. 2010)).

         The Court finds that the hours submitted should be reduced as follows: First, Hendrix's counsel bills for several hours work that was clerical in nature. Additionally, at least two entries bill for emails sent by a paralegal but billed at the full attorney rate. See July 31 Email, Def.'s Resp. in Opp., Ex. 7 [14-7]; August 17 Email, Def.'s Resp. in Opp., Ex. 10 [14-10]. Hours claimed for clerical work should be distinguished from those claimed for legal work and should be compensated at a lower rate. Abrams v. Baylor College of Medicine,805 F.2d 528, 536 (5th Cir. 1986) (citing Johnson, 488 F.2d at 717); Cruz v. Hauck,762 F.2d 1230, 1235 (5th Cir. 1985). Clerical work includes "investigation, compilation of facts and statistics, communications which serve a purely logistical or organizational purpose, the filing of returns with the court, the service of documents, ...


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