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Legal Memorandum: Lodestar Approach for Attorney's Fees

Issue: Under federal law, can a court make an enhancement to the Lodestar approach for attorney’s fees based on an ‘exceptional result’ obtained by a prevailing plaintiff under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Attorney's fees; Lodestar determination; Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 996 F.2d 1144; 559 U.S. 542
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 06/01/2015

“A properly calculated lodestar amount ‘is itself strongly presumed to be reasonable.'”  Galdames v. N&D Inv. Corp., 432 Fed. Appx. 801, 806 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Resolution Trust Corp. v. Hallmark Builders, Inc., 996 F.2d 1144, 1150 (11th Cir. 1993)).  Although in 2010 the Supreme Court acknowledged the theoretical possibility of an upward enhancement of the lodestar determination to account for extraordinary circumstances, it held that enhancements were not warranted in the case before it, and noted that it had never affirmed an enhanced fee.  See Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel. Winn, 130 S. Ct. 1662, 1672, 559 U.S. 542 (2010) (“there is a ‘strong presumption’ that the lodestar figure is reasonable, but that presumption may be overcome in those rare circumstances in which the lodestar does not adequately take into account factors that may properly be considered in determining a reasonable fee”).

The Perdue Court identified three situations that may warrant an enhancement:

·         When the method used in determining the hourly rate does not adequately measure the attorney’s true market value;

 

·         When the attorney’s performance includes an extraordinary outlay of expenses and the litigation is exceptionally protracted; or

·         When an attorney’s performance involves exceptional delay in the payment of fees.

Id. at 1672.

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