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Yadira v. Fernandez

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

March 27, 2014

ALMA YADIRA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
JESUS FERNANDEZ, et al., Defendants. FLORENCIA MONDRAGON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
JESUS FERNANDEZ, et al., Defendants. No. C-08-05722 RMW.

ORDER RE PLAINTIFF YADIRA'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS AND DEFENDANT FERNANDEZ'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS

RONALD M. WHYTE, District Judge.

In these consolidated cases numbered C-08-05721 (" Yadira ") and C-08-05722 (" Mondragon "), plaintiff Alma Yadira and defendant Jesus Fernandez, respectively, move for attorney's fees. For the reasons explained below, the court grants Yadira's motion for attorney's fees and costs but for a lesser amount than requested, denies Fernandez's motion for attorney's fees, and grants Fernandez's motion as to costs taxed by the clerk.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Yadira and Florencia Mondragon brought these actions seeking wages and penalties for overtime hours they claim they worked for Fernandez's establishments but for which they were not paid at an overtime rate. On June 14, 2011, this court granted summary adjudication in favor of plaintiff Yadira and against defendant Fernandez, individually, and doing business as Tony's Pool Hall, for his failure to provide accurate wage statements as required by California labor law, finding Yadira entitled to $4, 000.00 on that claim.

The remaining claims in these consolidated cases came on regularly for jury trial on March 26, 2012, and were tried from March 26, 2012 through April 2, 2012. At trial, the plaintiffs dropped their class action and California Private Attorney General Act claims. The jury returned a verdict awarding $1, 980.00 to Yadira for unpaid overtime wages both under California labor law and under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The jury awarded an additional $1, 980.00 to Yadira as liquidated damages on her federal claim and an additional $990.00 as a penalty authorized by California law for the willful failure to pay overtime wages upon termination of employment. The jury returned a verdict in favor of defendant Fernandez and against Yadira on her meal break claim.

The jury found in favor of Fernandez and against Mondragon on her California meal break claim and on her overtime claim under the FLSA. The jury did not unanimously agree on whether Mondragon was an exempt employee under California law and thus not entitled to overtime compensation. Therefore, Mondragon's claim under California law that she was a non-exempt employee and entitled to overtime wages had to be re-tried.

On September 4, 2013, plaintiff Mondragon dismissed without prejudice her California state law claim for overtime wages and proceeded to trial before the undersigned on her equitable claim for restitution under the California Business and Professions Code ยง 17, 200 et seq. On September 20, 2013, after trial and consideration of the evidence and arguments of counsel, the court issued its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, finding that the evidence established that Mondragon was an exempt employee and concluding that she was not entitled to recover overtime wages from Fernandez, individually, or doing business as Maria's Nightclub.

II. ANALYSIS

As the prevailing party, plaintiff Yadira now seeks $25, 128 in attorney's fees plus her taxable costs in Yadira. Fernandez opposes Yadira's motion and contends that Yadira should be awarded no more than $3, 485 in attorney's fees. Fernandez, as the prevailing defendant in Mondragon, seeks $93, 235.10 in attorneys' fees in addition to his costs.

Mondragon opposes Fernandez's motion. Fernandez is only entitled to fees in Mondragon if Mondragon's claims were frivolous or brought in bad faith. Roadway Express, Inc. v. Piper, 447 U.S. 752, 765 (1980). Mondragon contends that her claims, albeit losing, were not frivolous or brought in bad faith.

A. Yadira's Motion

Yadira seeks $25, 128 in attorney's fees. Fernandez argues that Yadira is only entitled to fees of $3, 485. The court awards Yadira $18, 341.25 in attorney's fees.

1. Reduction for partial success

First, Fernandez argues that the attorney's fees should be reduced because Yadira was only partially successful in her claims. In such cases, a reduced fee award is appropriate when the relief is limited in comparison to the scope of the litigation as a whole. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 439 (1983). To determine the appropriate award, the court applies a two-part analysis: if the unsuccessful and successful claims are unrelated, the final fee award may not include time expended on the unsuccessful claims; if the unsuccessful and successful claims are related, the court evaluates the "significance of the overall relief obtained by the plaintiff in relation to the hours reasonably expended on the litigation." Thorne v. City of El Segundo, 802 F.2d 1131, 1141 (9th Cir. 1986) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434-35). "The test for relatedness of claims is not precise, " but courts have looked to whether the unsuccessful claim is intended to remedy an entirely distinct and separate course of conduct, and whether the evidence overlapped. Id. Here, the court ...


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