United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
S. Zilly United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on plaintiff's motion for
attorney's fees, docket no. 147. Having reviewed the
motion and related filings, the Court enters the following
filed this action against his former employers, Golden
Specialty, Inc. (“Golden Specialty”) and Scott
Swiggard, alleging claims for unpaid overtime wages under the
Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and Washington
Minimum Wage Act (“MWA”), for retaliatory
discharge under the FLSA, for breach of contract, for
tortious interference with contractual relations and with
business expectancies, for defamation, and for wrongful
discharge in violation of public policy. See Second
Amended Complaint, docket no. 53. On September 27, 2016, the
Court dismissed plaintiff's claim for tortious
interference with business expectancies on summary judgment.
See Minute Order, docket no. 92. On October 29,
2016, the Saturday before trial, plaintiff moved to dismiss
all of his remaining claims but two: retaliatory discharge
under the FLSA and wrongful discharge in violation of public
policy. Motion to Dismiss, docket no. 119. On the first
morning of trial, October 31, 2016, the Court granted
plaintiff's motion for voluntary dismissal. See
Minute Entry, docket no. 125. On November 7, 2016, the jury
returned its verdict, docket no. 136, finding in favor of
defendants on plaintiff's claim for wrongful discharge in
violation of public policy, but in favor of plaintiff on his
claim for FLSA retaliation. The jury awarded plaintiff $108,
100 in lost wages and $3, 335 for emotional distress, and
assessed punitive damage awards of $60, 000 against Golden
Specialty and $15, 000 against Scott Swiggard. Plaintiff now
moves for attorney's fees pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §
FLSA authorizes an award of reasonable attorney's fees to
a prevailing plaintiff in anti-retaliation suits. Avila
v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 758 F.3d 1096, 1104 (9th
Cir. 2014) (citing 29 U.S.C. § 216(b)). Plaintiff seeks
$51, 360.00 in fees for 85.6 hours of time billed by Thad
Guyer at a rate of $600 per hour, and $89, 257.50 in fees for
198.35 hours of time billed by Stephani Ayers at a rate of
See Second Supplemental Decl. of Stephani Ayers,
docket no. 164 at ¶ 3 & Ex. A-2, docket no. 164-1 at
13-14. In total, plaintiff's motion seeks $140, 617.50 in
attorney's fees. Defendants do not contest plaintiff's
entitlement to attorney's fees. They challenge only the
reasonableness of the fees claimed.
first step in determining the amount of a reasonable fee is
to calculate the lodestar figure by taking the number of
hours reasonably expended on the litigation and multiplying
it by a reasonable hourly rate. Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433-34 (1983). Although in most
cases the lodestar figure is presumptively a reasonable fee
award, the district court may, if circumstances warrant,
adjust the lodestar to account for other facts which are not
subsumed within it, ” including the complexity of the
issues, the skill required, and the results obtained. See
Camacho v. Bridgeport Financial, 523 F.3d 973, 978 (9th
Reasonable Hourly Rate
attorney's fees “are to be calculated according to
the prevailing market rates in the relevant community.”
See Van Skike v. Director, Office of Workers'
Compensation Programs, 557 F.3d 1041, 1046 (9th Cir.
2009) (quoting Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895
(1984)). “Generally, when determining a reasonable
hourly rate, the relevant community is the forum in which the
district court sits.” Camacho v. Bridgeport
Financial, Inc., 523 F.3d 973, 979 (9th Cir. 2008).
“[T]he burden is on the fee applicant to produce
satisfactory evidence . . . that the requested rates are in
line with those prevailing in the community for similar
services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill,
experience and reputation.” Id. at 980
(quoting Blum, 465 U.S. at 895 n. 11). Rate
determinations in other similar cases and affidavits of the
plaintiff's attorneys and other attorneys regarding
prevailing fees in the community “are satisfactory
evidence of the prevailing market rate.” Id.
(quoting United Steelworkers of Am. v. Phelps Dodge
Corp., 896 F.2d 403, 407 (9th Cir. 1990)).
Guyer has 38 years of civil rights and criminal trial
experience and has practiced both nationally and
internationally. Guyer Decl., docket no. 145 at ¶ 1. Mr.
Guyer requests an hourly rate of $600. In support of this
hourly rate, plaintiff submits declarations from Jack
Sheridan and Gregory Wolk, Seattle area employment attorneys
who opine that Mr. Guyer would command an hourly rate between
$500 and $600 an hour in light of his significant experience.
Decl. of Thad Guyer, docket no. 145, Exs. 1 & 2.
assert that Mr. Guyer's requested hourly rate is
unreasonable in this district and that a reasonable rate for
Mr. Guyer would be $450 per hour. Defendants do not offer any
declarations regarding the prevailing rate in this judicial
district. Instead, defendants contend, with citation to
several cases,  that attorneys “in the Western
District pursuing consumer and employment claims are rarely
compensated for hourly rates in excess of $450 for attorneys
of Mr. Guyer's vintage.” Defs.' Opposition,
docket no. 155 at 7. It is not the case, however, that Courts
in this district have refused to approve rates above $450.
See, e.g., Conti v. Corporate Services Group,
Inc., 30 F.Supp.3d 1051, 1080 (W.D. Wash. Jul. 10, 2014)
(noting, in 2014, that $500 is “near the upper end of
the range of rates that experienced employment counsel charge
in this District”); Lauer v. Longevity Medical
Clinic PLLC, 2016 WL 2595122, at *3 (W.D. Wash. May 4,
2016) (finding a $500 hourly rate reasonable in light of lead
counsel's experience in employment cases). None of the
cases defendants cite involved an attorney with Mr.
Guyer's level of trial experience. Mr. Guyer was an
exemplary advocate who provided remarkably high quality
representation and achieved a well-fought victory for his
client. Plaintiff has met his evidentiary burden by producing
satisfactory evidence that an hourly rate between $500 and
$600 for Mr. Guyer is commensurate with lawyers of reasonably
comparable skill, experience, and reputation in the
community. This range of rates is in line with the
Court's own knowledge and experience regarding fees
charged in this district by similarly skillful litigators
with more than 35 years of experience. Defendants have
produced no evidence, other than citation to a few cases
which offer poor comparisons for Mr. Guyer's work, to
rebut the accuracy or reasonableness of the hours charged or
the facts asserted in the declarations submitted by the
plaintiff. See Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392,
1397-98 (9th Cir. 1992) (“The party opposing the fee
application has a burden of rebuttal that requires submission
of evidence to the district court challenging the accuracy
and reasonableness of the hours charged or the facts asserted
by the prevailing party in its submitted affidavits.”
(citing Blum, 465 U.S. at 892 n. 5)). Given the
breadth of Mr. Guyer's experience, the high quality
representation he provided, and the dearth of relevant
evidence submitted by the defendants in support of their
contention that an hourly rate between $500 and $600 for Mr.
Guyer is excessive, the Court concludes that an hourly rate
of $550 is reasonable. Mr. Guyer was worth every penny.
Ayers was second chair at trial and has approximately 13
years of employment litigation experience. See Decl.
of Stephani Ayers, docket no. 146 at ¶ 5. Ms. Ayers
requests an hourly rate of $450. In support of this hourly
rate, plaintiff relies on the declarations of Mr. Sheridan
and Mr. Wolk who opine that Ms. Ayers would command an hourly
rate between $300 and $500 an hour. Decl. of Thad Guyer,
docket no. 145, Ex. 1 at ¶ 8 & Ex. 2 at ¶ 8-9.
Defendants argue that Ms. Ayers's requested hourly rate
of $450 is excessive for an attorney of her vintage and that
a reasonable rate for Ms. Ayers would be $300 per hour.
Having reviewed recent fee awards in this district, the Court
concludes that an hourly rate of $350 for Ms. Ayers is
commensurate with lawyers of reasonably comparable skill,
experience, and reputation in the community. See,
e.g., Fulton, 2016 WL 3976558 at * 4
(Reasonable rate for attorney in an FDCPA action with
approximately ten years of experience was $300); BWP
MediaUSA Inc. v. Rich Kids Clothing Co., LLC,
103 F.Supp.3d 1242, 1250 (W.D. Wash. May 1, 2015) ($350 an
hour was a reasonable rate for an attorney with nineteen
years of experience in infringement action); Hanson v.
County of Kitsap, Wash., No. 13-5388 RJB, 2015 WL
3965829, at *4 (W.D. Wash. June 30, 2015) ...