Darlene Parham-Johnson, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated
Pyramid Builders Assoc., Inc. et al No. 132971
FINDINGS OF FACT, RULINGS OF LAW, AND ORDER ON
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ASSESSMENT OF ATTORNEYS FEES, AND
ORDER OF JUDGMENT
Elizabeth M. Fahey, J.
brought a Wage Act claim that was tried before a jury in
December 2015. After the jury returned a verdict for
Plaintiff, she filed a motion to recover attorneys fees and
costs. Defendants filed an Opposition, and after a hearing on
January 6, 2016, Plaintiff's request for Attorneys Fees
and Costs is ALLOWED .
its name, Defendants' business, Pyramid Builders
Associates, Inc. (" PBA"), is totally unrelated to
construction; rather, it involves the provision of mental
health, psychosocial, and clinical counseling to both
children and adults. It has offices in Boston, Lawrence,
Lynn, and Brockton. Presently, the only
principal of PBA is Dr. Omar Reid. Dr. Reid
testified that he and Sekou Mims (" Mims") were
Co-Directors of PBA, but since Mims's death, he is the
company's sole Director and its Chief Marketing Officer.
He also testified that PBA is a non-profit company, but did
not explain the basis for such status. PBA's income,
according to Dr. Reid, is generated by Mass. Health,
Medicare, and Medicaid payments because PBA largely serves a
low-income population and from referrals from courts.
Reid claims that he is an independent contractor for PBA; he
also testified that he hired all of the company's
independent contractors in 2008 and 2009. The number of
PBA's independent contractors has increased to well over
300. Dr. Reid testified that PBA has grown " so rapidly,
" and that it " hires only independent
contractors" and has no
employees. As a result, PBA does not pay social
security, medicare, unemployment, or taxes for any of its
Montgomery's (" Montgomery"), the Principal of
Montgomery Financial, has handled payroll and accounting for
PBA since 2002, including preparing its financial records for
audits. Montgomery's testimony confirms
that the company receives funding from the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts, and also that each independent contractor is
sent IRS Form 1099-MISC to report yearly income received.
worked for PBA from July 2008 until the fall of
2009. Plaintiff initially worked part time
at PBA, but later became full time. PBA required she sign a
Consultant Agreement indicating she was an independent
contractor, and not an employee. This relationship formed the
basis for Plaintiff's Wage Act claim, which was tried
before a jury in December 2015. The jury returned a verdict
for Plaintiff. Accordingly, Plaintiff filed the present
Motion for Assessment of Attorneys Fees.
court accepts that the $300.00 hourly rate of Plaintiff's
attorneys is reasonable, and that the descriptions of work
are reasonable for the charged time as well. Also, this court
accepts that the costs requested are
success on her Wage Act claim entitles her to attorneys fees
reasonably related to the enforcement of that statutory
right. See G.L.c. 149, § 148; see also G.L.c. 149,
§ 150 (providing that any employee aggrieved by a
violation of the Wage Act shall be awarded the costs of the
litigation and reasonable attorneys fees). The guidelines for
determining the amount of a reasonable fee in this setting
have been set forth in Heller v. Silver Branch
Construction Corp., 376 Mass. 621, 629, 382 N.E.2d 1065
(1978), and in Linthicum v. Archambault, 379 Mass.
381, 388-89, 398 N.E.2d 482 (1979). Commonly referred to as
the " lodestar" method, the reasonable fee is
calculated by multiplying the hours reasonably spent by a
reasonable hourly rate and then making any necessary
adjustments. See Berman v. Linnane, 434 Mass. 301,
303, 748 N.E.2d 466 (2001); Haddad v. Wal-Mart Stores.
Inc. (No. 2), 455 Mass. 1024, 1025, 920 N.E.2d 278
What constitutes a reasonable fee is a question that is
committed to the sound discretion of the judge."
Berman, 434 Mass. at 302-03. " When determining
a reasonable attorneys fee, the focus is not the bill
submitted . . . or the amount in controversy . . . but
several factors, including 'the nature of the case and
the issues presented, the time and labor required, the amount
of damages involved, the result obtained, the experience,
reputation and ability of the attorney, the usual price
charged for similar services by other attorneys in the same
area, and the amount of awards in similar cases.'"
Id. at 303, quoting Linthicum, 379 Mass. at
388-89. However, no single factor is determinative, and a
factor-by-factor analysis is not required. Berman,
434 Mass. at 303. The presiding trial judge, " making
firsthand observation of the quality and necessary quantity
of the parties' preparation and performance is uniquely
situated to assess the reasonable value" of the
attorney's services. City Rentals, LLC v. BBC
Co., 79 Mass.App.Ct. 559, 566-67, 947 N.E.2d 1103
(2011). Therefore, the judge has wide discretion in
determining the amount of attorneys fees to be awarded to a
party. See Heller, 376 Mass. at 629 (" A judge
presiding over the action for which the plaintiff seeks
reasonable attorneys fees has ample opportunity to acquire
firsthand knowledge" of relevant factors to be
considered in determining reasonable award).
Reasonableness of Hourly Rate
A determination of a reasonable hourly rate begins with the
'average rates in the attorney's community for
similar work done by attorneys of the same years'
experience.'" Haddad, 455 Mass. at 1025-26,
quoting Stratos v. Dept. of Pub. Welfare, 387 Mass.
312, 323, 439 N.E.2d 778 (1982). This court finds the rate of
$300.00 per hour for plaintiff's attorneys as reasonable.
respectful of counsels' experience, this court discerns
the objective worth of the services provided by Attorney
Cohen to be a reduced rate of $300.00 per hour. This rate
takes into account counsel's experience, and the basic
facts of this case. See Haddad, 455 Mass. at
1025-26. The setting of such a rate is within the court's
discretion. See Holland v. Jachmann (No. 1), 85
Mass.App.Ct. 292, 299, 9 N.E.3d 340 & n.11 (2014) (no abuse
of discretion assigning $350.00 hourly rate to salaried
in-house counsel). See also Byrnes v. Luke, 30 Mass.
L. Rptr. ...