United States District Court, D. New Mexico
RANDY WILLIAMSON, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
AMERIFLOW ENERGY SERVICES L.L.C., CRESCENT SERVICES L.L.C., and CRESCENT CONSULTING L.L.C., Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
GREGORY J. FOURATT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs'
“Unopposed Motion for Approval of FLSA Settlement and
Stipulation of Dismissal of Settled Claims with
Prejudice” (“Motion”) [Doc. 122]. On April
28, 2017, the undersigned conducted a fairness hearing
pursuant to the Order of Reference filed by Chief U.S.
District Judge M. Christina Armijo [Doc. 123] on April 7,
2017. Having now reviewed the Motion and heard argument from
all parties, the Court REPORTS the following findings:
Plaintiff Randy Williamson commenced this case against
Defendants. Fifteen additional individuals later joined this
lawsuit as party-plaintiffs. Mr. Williamson and the fifteen
opt-in Plaintiffs asserted claims against Defendants for
alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.,
and the New Mexico Minimum Wage Act, N.M. Stat. Ann. §
50-4-20 et seq. (“NMMWA”).
Counsel to the Plaintiffs represented to the Court that
multiple good-faith attempts were made to notify each
Plaintiff individually of the hearing and the right to attend
it by telephone. Although only fourteen (14) of the sixteen
(16) Plaintiffs were notified, the Court finds that
Plaintiffs' counsel made good faith efforts to inform all
Plaintiffs of their right to attend and participate in the
Court has jurisdiction over this lawsuit and all parties to
parties have had and continue to have bona fide disputes on
several issues, including the Plaintiffs' classification
as independent contractors or de facto employees,
whether any FLSA violation was willful so as to expand the
applicable statute of limitations, the viability of the
“good faith” defense, and the type, computation,
and amount of damages.
Court has reviewed the Motion, along with the Confidential
Settlement Agreement [see attach. 1] between the
Defendants and Plaintiff Williamson (who signed the Agreement
individually and as authorized agent on behalf of the other
fifteen Plaintiffs), and other materials provided in
set forth in the Motion and the Settlement Agreement, and as
further substantiated by information provided to the Court
during the fairness hearing, the settlement reached by the
parties is a fair and reasonable resolution of this lawsuit
and was negotiated at arms-length and free of collusion by
qualified counsel on both sides. This case has been
vigorously litigated throughout its nineteen-month existence,
with the parties contesting nearly every facet of the case,
including certification of the FLSA collective, notice to the
collective, and discovery. The Court has no doubt that
similarly-intense litigation would have continued throughout
the remaining pretrial and trial phases of this case but for
the settlement reached between the parties.
Court finds that the criteria evaluated by Plaintiffs'
counsel and Plaintiff Williamson in deciding to accept the
total settlement amount were prudent and reasonable. The
Court is especially persuaded of the reasonableness of the
total settlement amount because it represents almost 82% of
the “net-in-pocket” amount that the collective
plaintiffs would have received after trial, assuming two
years of affected wage payments. The Court also credits
defense counsel's explanation that the total settlement
amount was actually at or above the Defendants' estimated
post-trial damages valuation.
Court finds that Plaintiffs' counsel adequately discussed
with each individual Plaintiff the total settlement amount,
the percentage of the total amount that would be disbursed to
Plaintiff's counsel for fees and costs, and the
individual disbursement that each Plaintiff would receive.
See attach. 2.
Court finds, based on the reasoning detailed in
Plaintiff's Motion [See Pl.'s Mot. 8-16,
Doc. 122], that the portion of the total settlement amount
proposed for Plaintiffs' attorney fees and costs is
reasonable and just, particularly given the complexity and
intensity of litigation in this case, the specialized
knowledge that such cases require to successfully prosecute,
and the financial risk that contingency cases of this kind
impose on plaintiff counsel. See attach. 3. The
Court further observes that the 40% contingency fee
percentage applicable in this case yields an amount that is
significantly less than the “lodestar” amount
that would otherwise apply if Plaintiff's counsel were
compensated on an hourly rate basis.
Counsel to the Plaintiffs represented to the Court that all
Plaintiffs consent to the settlement with Defendants and the
relief requested in the Motion. After reasonable inquiry, the
Court is aware of no objection by any Plaintiff to any aspect
of the proposed settlement.
Court makes no finding or recommendation as to the validity,
or lack thereof, of any claim against any Defendant.
Likewise, the Court makes no finding or recommendation as to
whether any Defendant is liable under the FLSA, the NMMWA, or
any other potentially applicable law.
Court further finds that the parties have consented to this
Court maintaining jurisdiction over this matter to enforce