Elite Cleaning Company v. Capel , (Del. Ch., Nov. 20, 2006), read opinion here. The prior opinion in this case was summarized on my blog here . The cite to that prior opinion is 2006 Del. Ch. LEXIS 105 (June 2, 2006).
This latest opinion in the case is the post-judgment consideration of the previously summarized opinion in which the court considered the petition for attorneys’ fees which were awarded in the opinion of June 2006 based on the statutory basis for awarding attorneys’ fees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The prevailing counterclaimant sought over $25,000 in attorneys’ fees based on the successful claim for overtime wages, but the court only granted attorneys’ fees in the amount of $10,000. (Surprisingly, although allowed by statute, the petition apparently did not request costs.) This should be seen in the context of the award for summary judgment on the counterclaim which was in the minimal amount of $232 in actual damages, $232 in liquidated statutory damages, plus reasonable attorneys’ fees.
The court also reviewed the process for determining appropriate fees based on an FLSA claim under Section 216(b) of Title 29 of the U.S. Code based on a lodestar, by multiplying the number of hours reasonably spent on the case by a reasonable hourly rate of compensation for each attorney. See Lyon v. Whisman, 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20542 (D. Del. 1994). The petition was supported by the affidavits of two experienced Delaware lawyers supporting an hourly rate of $225 per hour for the time charges of an associate. The court also reduced the fees allowable for review of documents by the attorney that the court thought could be done by a litigation paralegal.
The court also noted that the Court of Chancery has no “offer of judgment rule” (similar to Rule 68 in other courts), that would have tolled any fees that accrued after the amount of overtime was submitted–prior to trial–in a check that was cashed. However the court found that even in those courts that do have an offer of judgment rule, it is doubtful that the submission of a check alone would satisfy it. The court also reduced the fees based on the fact that the motion for summary judgment on the counterclaim was not entirely successful as well as the court’s view that FLSA claims are relatively uncomplicated, in addition to the fact that the court found that once the amount in dispute was offered in the form of a check, the substantial amount of time spent afterwards should have been less if the parties cooperated more on that aspect of the litigation once it appeared that the opposing party had acknowledged the relatively minor wage calculation error.