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Li v. Foolun, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

August 10, 2017

JIN HAI LI, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
FOOLUN, INC., ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS AND TREBLE DAMAGES [1] [DOCKET NO. 130]

          JENNIFER C. BOAL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         In this action, plaintiffs Jin Hai Li and Xin Liu brought claims under the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. (“FLSA”) and the Massachusetts Wage Act, M.G.L. c. 149, §§ 148-150 (the “Wage Act”). Plaintiff Li also asserted a claim under the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Law, M.G.L. c. 151, §§ 1, 2 & 9. After a four day trial, the jury found that the Defendants violated the FLSA by failing to pay overtime to the Plaintiffs. The jury found that Defendants owed $5, 239.08 and $7, 043.04 in unpaid overtime to Li and Liu, respectively.[2] The jury found for the Defendants on Li's minimum wage claim.

         Plaintiffs have filed a motion for an award of treble damages under the Wage Act, and for attorney's fees and costs. Docket No. 130. For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion to the extent that it awards $15, 717.24 to Li and $21, 129.12 to Liu in treble damages, $61, 030.00 in attorney's fees, and $4, 937.74 in costs and expenses.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         On April 6, 2015, the Plaintiffs filed their complaint alleging that Defendants Foolun, Inc., Di Tang, and Wen Xue Zhang failed to pay overtime in violation of the FLSA and the Wage Act. Docket No. 1. Plaintiff Li also alleged that the Defendants failed to pay him minimum wages in violation of Massachusetts law. Id.

         The parties appeared for a scheduling conference on October 2, 2015 and, thereafter, engaged in discovery. Docket No. 20. No dispositive or discovery motions were filed.

         A four day jury trial was held from January 30, 2017 through February 2, 2017. On February 2, 2017, the jury found in favor of Plaintiffs on the overtime claims and in favor of the Defendants on Li's minimum wage claim. Docket No. 125. The jury also found that the Defendants' failure to pay overtime was not willful. Id. The jury awarded damages in the amount of $5, 239.08 and $7, 043.04 to Li and Liu, respectively. Id.

         On March 7, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the instant motion seeking an award of treble damages, attorney's fees, and costs. Docket No. 130. Defendants filed an opposition on March 21, 2017. Docket No. 131. Plaintiffs filed a reply on April 5, 2017. Docket No. 136.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Treble Damages

         The Plaintiffs request an award of treble damages in the amount of $15, 717.24 for Li and $21, 129.12 for Liu. Docket No. 130 at 1. The Plaintiffs brought their claims under the provisions of the FLSA and the Wage Act. The Wage Act mandates the award of treble damages for lost wages once an aggrieved employee prevails on a Wage Act claim. George v. Nat'l Water Main Cleaning Co., 477 Mass. 371, 374-375 (2017). A failure to pay overtime wages under the FLSA is also a violation of the Wage Act. Lambirth v. Advanced Auto, Inc., 140 F.Supp.3d 108, 112 (D. Mass. 2015). Indeed, in their opposition to Plaintiffs' motion, the Defendants do not contest that the Plaintiffs are entitled to treble damages. Accordingly, the Court awards Li and Liu treble damages in the amount of $15, 717.24 and $21, 129.12, respectively.

         B. Attorney's Fees And Costs

         The Plaintiffs seek $79, 402.50 in attorney's fees. Specifically, they seek an award for: (1) 177.6 attorney hours at the rate of $250 per hour for Attorney Meyerson and (2) 107.7 attorney hours at the rate of $325 per hour for Attorney Summer. See Meyerson Aff. at ¶¶ 5, 12;[3] Summer Aff. at ¶¶ 3, 4.[4] They also seek $6, 437.74 in costs and expenses. Docket No. 130 at 1. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will award $61, 030.00 in attorney's fees, and $4, 937.74 in costs and expenses.

         1. Attorney's Fees Under The FLSA And The Wage Act

         Both the FLSA and the Wage Act allow a prevailing employee to recover attorney's fees and costs. Carpaneda v. Domino's Pizza, Inc., 89 F.Supp.3d 219, 224 (D. Mass. 2015); Mogilevsky v. Bally Total Fitness Corp., 311 F.Supp.2d 212, 216 (D. Mass. 2004). As prevailing parties, therefore, the Plaintiffs are entitled to recover reasonable attorney's fees and costs.[5]

         “[A] plaintiff who prevails on congruent federal and state claims and qualifies for fee-shifting under two or more statutes may recover fees under whichever fee-shifting regimen [he] chooses.” Coutin v. Young & Rubicam Puerto Rico, Inc., 124 F.3d 331, 342 (1st Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). Here, the Plaintiffs have chosen to recover fees under the Wage Act. Docket No. 130 at 3, n. 2. In any event, Massachusetts courts and the First Circuit use similar approaches in evaluating the reasonableness of applications for attorney's fees. Ellicott v. Am. Capital Energy, Inc., No. 14-12152-FDS, 2017 WL 1224537, at *1, n. 1 (D. Mass. Apr. 3, 2017) (citing Joyce v. Town of Dennis, ...


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