United States District Court, District of Columbia
SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION NATIONAL INDUSTRY PENSION FUND, et al., Plaintiffs,
PARKWAY HEALTHCARE, LLC Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. FRIEDRICH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) National
Industry Pension Fund and Trustees of the SEIU Pension Fund
filed an action to recover contributions against defendant
Parkway Healthcare, LLC under the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and Labor Management Relations
Act of 1947 (LMRA). This Court granted summary judgment in
favor of the plaintiffs and directed the plaintiffs to file a
petition for attorneys' fees and costs. Before the Court
is the plaintiffs' Petition for Attorneys' Fees and
Costs, Dkt. 19, which the Court will grant in part and deny
in part, awarding the plaintiffs fees and costs in the amount
of $10, 555.00.
discussion of the factual background of this case can be
found in the Court's Memorandum Opinion granting the
plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment. See SEIU
Nat'l Indus. Pension Fund v. Parkway Healthcare,
LLC, Dkt. 18, (Mem. Op). Only the facts necessary to
resolve the plaintiffs' petition for fees and costs are
set forth below.
plaintiffs represent employees in service professions, such
as certified nursing assistants, dietary and housekeeping
employees, and recreational aides. Mem. Op. at 2. The
defendant employs workers in those professions and entered
into a Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Fund.
Id. Since April 2010, this Collective Bargaining
Agreement has obligated the defendant to provide the Fund
with monthly contributions and corresponding remittance
reports under the Fund's Trust Agreement. Id.
After the defendant became delinquent in its contributions
with respect to certified nursing assistants and dietary,
housekeeping, and recreational employees, the parties reached
a settlement agreement pertaining to all contributions from
January 2009 to March 2010. But disputes remained regarding
additional unpaid contributions during the time period
covered by the settlement. Id. at 17. After
identifying the defendant's delinquent payments, the Fund
separately conducted two random audits of the defendant.
Id. at 5. Both audits revealed that the defendant
owed the Fund additional unpaid contributions. Id.
Fund brought an action in this Court against the defendant
under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
(ERISA) §§ 1132(a)(3), (d)(1), (g)(2), 1145, and
the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947(LMRA), 29 U.S.C.
§ 185(a). Id. at 1. The Court granted the
plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment, which permitted
the plaintiffs to collect unpaid contributions, interest,
liquidated damages, audit testing fees, attorneys' fees,
and costs from the defendant. Id. at 19. The
plaintiffs now petition for attorneys' fees and costs
awarded by the Court's 2018 Memorandum Opinion and Order
granting summary judgment. The plaintiffs seek a total of
$10, 633.00 in attorneys' fees and costs. See
Dkt. 19, at 3 (Pl.'s Mtn.).
Court has already held that the plaintiffs are entitled to
attorneys' fees. Mem. Op. at 18. Under ERISA,
attorneys' fees are mandatory in any action “by a
fiduciary for or on behalf of a plan to enforce section 1145
of this title in which a judgment in favor of the plan is
awarded.” 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2); see also
Connors v. Brady-Cline Coal Co., 668 F.Supp. 5, 10
(D.D.C. 1987). This action falls within § 1145 because
the plaintiffs sought to recover contributions to a
multiemployer plan pursuant to a collective bargaining
agreement. Id. § 1145.
fees are calculated by multiplying the number of hours
reasonably expended in litigation by a reasonable hourly
rate. See Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 888 (1984).
The result of this equation is the lodestar figure.
Id. The plaintiffs use the Laffey matrix to
justify the reasonableness of their hourly rate. And the
Laffey matrix satisfies the plaintiffs' initial
burden of “establishing entitlement to an award . . .
and justifying the reasonableness of the rates.” DL
v. DC, 2019 WL 2180398, at *2 (D.C. Cir. May 21, 2019)
(quoting Covington v. District of Columbia, 57 F.3d
1101, 1107 (D.C. Cir. 1995)). The defendant neither presents
“equally specific countervailing evidence”
against the Laffey matrix nor challenges the
plaintiffs' hourly rate. Id. Thus, the
plaintiffs' hourly rates are presumptively reasonable.
defendant concedes, as it must, that the plaintiffs are
entitled to attorneys' fees. But the defendant contests
the accuracy of the plaintiffs' fees report, the total
number of hours requested, and the categorizations of a
paralegal's work. See Dkt. 20, at 2 (Def.'s
Opp'n). The defendant argues that the Court must
“significantly adjust down” the plaintiffs'
petition for attorneys' fees and costs for three reasons:
first, the plaintiffs' attorney declaration and brief
contain conflicting information that makes the hours
requested inaccurate; second, the total number of hours the
plaintiffs billed was duplicative and excessive, and
therefore unreasonable; third, the plaintiffs improperly
requested recovery for a paralegal's time spent on purely
clerical work. Def.'s Opp'n at 5-7. For the reasons
stated, the Court finds that the bulk of the plaintiffs'
fee request is reasonable.
Accuracy of Hours Requested
defendant asserts that the plaintiffs' request for hours
contains a discrepancy between their brief and attorney
certification regarding the number of associate and partner
hours that were billed to this case. The defendant points out
that the billing records reflect that the only partner on the
case, Ms. Bardes, billed 24.2 hours, but the attorney
certification states that only .4 hours were billed at the
partner rate. Def.'s Opp'n at 3. Similarly, the
billing records reflect that the only associate attorney on
the case, Mr. Watts, billed 17.3 hours, but the attorney
certification states that 41.1 hours were billed at the
associate rate. Id.
apparent discrepancy is explained by the fact that Ms. Bardes
was promoted from associate to partner near the end of the
litigation. Dkt. 21, at 3-4 (Pl.'s Reply). Before her
promotion, Ms. Bardes billed her time at the associate rate.
Ms. Bardes' 23.8 hours of associate work, combined with
Mr. Watts' 17.3 hours, equals a total of 41.1 associate
hours. Id. at 4. After her promotion, Ms. Bardes
billed .4 hours at the partner rate which explains the total
of .4 hours of partner time spent on the litigation.
Id. The Court thus finds no inconsistencies between
the billing records and the number of hours requested in the