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Escamilla v. Nuyen

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 25, 2017

JOSE MILTON BAUTISTA ESCAMILLA Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID NUYEN, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBIN M. MERIWEATHER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before this Court is Plaintiff Jose Milton Bautista Escamilla's (“Mr. Escamilla”) Petition for Award of Attorney's Fees and Costs (“Fee Petition”). See ECF No. 45. On January 10, 2017, this matter was reassigned from Magistrate Judge Alan Kay to the undersigned for all purposes and trial. See January 10, 2017 Referral. On February 9, 2017, Mr. Escamilla filed the instant Fee Petition requesting attorney's fees and costs in the amount of $64, 372.79, following Magistrate Judge Kay's finding that Defendants David Nuyen d/b/a USA Home Champion Realty and d/b/a Opmax (“Mr. Nuyen”), USA Home Champion Realty, Inc. (“HCR”), Opmax Management, LLC (“OM”), and Opmax, LLC (“Opmax”) (collectively, “Defendants”) violated the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”) and D.C. Minimum Wage Act Revision Act (“DCMWA”) by failing to pay Mr. Escamilla his overtime wages. Fee Petition at 2; Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (“Findings”) at 29, ECF No. 42. The Fee Petition is unopposed. Nonetheless, the Court must deny Mr. Escamilla's Fee Petition in its entirety because it was not timely filed, and Mr. Escamilla has neither moved to enlarge the deadline nor established excusable neglect that would warrant such an extension.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         On May 22, 2014, Mr. Escamilla brought suit against Defendants, alleging that Mr. Nuyen denied Mr. Escamilla his overtime wages, in violation of the FLSA and DCMWA. Compl. ¶¶ 31, 44-56, ECF No. 1. Mr. Escamilla worked for Defendants as a “general laborer” from approximately March 1, 2008 through approximately January 28, 2013. See Findings at 2, ECF No. 42. Mr. Nuyen served as president and primary owner of Opmax, HCR, OM, and the rental properties located in Washington, D.C. Id. Sung Dang (“Mr. Dang”) was Mr. Nuyen's building manager. Id.

         As a general laborer, Mr. Escamilla performed maintenance work on Mr. Nuyen's rental properties in Washington, D.C. Id. Specifically, Mr. Escamilla worked, on average, 66 hours per week cleaning, painting, and repairing the properties, in addition to performing plumbing and carpentry tasks. Id. Mr. Nuyen paid Mr. Escamilla $10.00 per hour rather than paying Mr. Escamilla his “half time” premium of $5.00 for every hour worked beyond a 40-hour workweek. Id. Throughout the duration of Mr. Escamilla's employment, he never received a raise. Id. at 6, 12.

         Mr. Escamilla also claimed that Mr. Nuyen and Mr. Dang exercised significant control over his daily work routine and provided the tools for Mr. Escamilla and his coworkers to use each day at the job site. Id. at 6-8. Mr. Nuyen called Mr. Dang each day to inform him of Mr. Escamilla's tasks. Id. at 6. Mr. Nuyen and Mr. Dang also inspected Mr. Escamilla's work before he could perform the next assignment. Id. at 7. Moreover, Mr. Nuyen was often at the properties where Mr. Escamilla was working and was usually there for the majority of the workweek. Id. Mr. Nuyen also had the authority to fire Mr. Escamilla and his coworkers. Id.

         Mr. Escamilla claimed Defendants failed to pay him overtime wages and therefore owed him $20, 670.00. Id. at 3. Mr. Escamilla also requested liquidated damages, equitable tolling of his claims, and reasonable attorney's fees. Id. However, Defendants denied Mr. Escamilla's claims and argued that Mr. Escamilla was not Defendants' employee and was instead hired as an independent contractor who was paid per job rather than per hour. Id. Defendants also claimed that Mr. Escamilla signed a service agreement on February 1, 2012 that reflected his status as an independent contractor rather than an employee and therefore agreed to the terms of his employment. Id.

         B. Procedural Background

         Mr. Escamilla filed his Complaint on May 22, 2014 for Defendants' alleged violations of the FLSA and the DCMWA. See Compl. at 2. On December 18, 2014, District Judge James E. Boasberg ordered that the matter be referred to a magistrate judge for all purposes and trial. See Order of Referral, ECF No. 11. Accordingly, the case was reassigned to Magistrate Judge Alan Kay on December 18, 2014. See Referral, ECF No. 12.

         Magistrate Judge Kay conducted a two-day bench trial on October 24, 2016 and October 25, 2016. See October 24, 2016 and October 25, 2016 Minute Entries. During the bench trial and following its conclusion, Magistrate Judge Kay considered witness testimony, evidence presented, and the parties' proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. See Pl.'s Proposed Findings of Facts and Law, ECF No. 40; Defs.' Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, ECF No. 41. In his Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, Magistrate Judge Kay ultimately determined that Mr. Escamilla had met his burden of proof in showing that Defendants violated the FLSA and the DCMWA for their failure to pay Mr. Escamilla his overtime wages. See Findings at 3. Magistrate Judge Kay therefore awarded Mr. Escamilla $20, 280.00 in damages for unpaid overtime wages, $20, 280.00 in liquidated damages, and reasonable attorney's fees. Id. at 29. Magistrate Judge Kay did not apply equitable tolling to Mr. Escamilla's claims because he found the claims to be too speculative. Id. at 28. The Court further instructed Mr. Escamilla to file a fee petition so that the Court could determine the amount of attorney's fees to which Mr. Escamilla was entitled. Id. at 29. On January 6, 2017, Judgment was entered in favor of Mr. Escamilla. See Clerk's Judgment, ECF No. 43. On January 10, 2017, the case was reassigned to the undersigned magistrate judge for all purposes and trial. See January 10, 2017 Referral.

         Several attorneys withdrew their appearance after the bench trial. On November 17, 2016, in a Joint Motion to Extend Time to File Findings of Fact, Jason Friedman, counsel for Mr. Escamilla, withdrew his appearance, and Gregg Greenberg replaced him as counsel for Mr. Escamilla. See Joint Motion to Extend Time to File Findings of Fact, ECF No. 39. On January 29, 2017, Daniel Wemhoff, counsel for Defendants, filed a Notice of Withdrawal of Appearance. See Withdrawal of Appearance, ECF No. 44. No attorney has entered an appearance for Defendants since Mr. Wemhoff withdrew.

         Mr. Escamilla filed his Fee Petition on February 9, 2017. See Fee Petition, ECF No. 45. As the prevailing party, Mr. Escamilla seeks an award of attorney's fees in the amount of $58, 777.20 for 173.70 hours of legal services, provided over the course of about two-and-a-half years, and costs in the amount of $5, 595.59 for his filing, deposition transcript, and trial interpreter fees. See Fee Petition at 1, 13-14; see also Supp. Billing Records, ECF No. 45-1. The total requested amount is $64, 372.79. See Fee Petition at 14.

         On February 14, 2017, the Court, on its own motion, extended the deadline for Defendants' response to the Fee Petition by thirty days, through March 16, 2017, in light of the withdrawal of defense counsel. See Order, ECF No. 46. However, Defendants did not respond to the Fee Petition prior to that date. On April 12, 2017, the Court requested that Defendants file a notice advising the Court of whether Defendants intended to seek additional time to respond to the Fee Petition. See April 12, 2017 Minute Order. The mailings notifying Mr. Dang of the Court's February 14, 2017 and April 12, ...


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