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Lassen v. Hoyt Livery Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 3, 2018

ROGER LASSEN JR., individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated individuals,
v.
HOYT LIVERY, INC., et. al.,

          RULING AND ORDER REGARDING MOTION TO ENFORCE SETTLEMENT

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Roger Lassen, Jr. (“Plaintiff”), on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, brought this action against Hoyt Livery, Inc. (“Hoyt Livery”), Santo Silvestro, and Lynda Silvestro (collectively “Defendants”), asserting claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (“FLSA”) and the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 31 to 58 et seq. (“CMWA”). On March 16, 2018, after conducting a Final Approval Hearing, the Court approved the settlement of this case.

         Mr. Lassen now seeks to enforce the settlement agreement and attorney's fees for overdue payment.

         For the following reasons, the Court finds the motion to enforce the settlement agreement is MOOT and DENIES the motion for a judgment and the awarding of penalties under the settlement agreement but GRANTS Plaintiffs' motion for attorney's fees in the amount of $5, 236.25, payable by December 31, 2018, because of the additional litigation necessitated to ensure the fulfillment of the settlement agreement's terms.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         For nearly three years, Mr. Lassen worked as a limousine driver for Hoyt Livery, a Connecticut company owned by Mr. Silvestro and Ms. Silvestro. Hoyt Livery paid all drivers, including Mr. Lassen, with a commission-based system. Under the system, a dispatcher assigned drivers to work trips requested by customers, and the assigned driver earned forty percent of whatever fee Hoyt charged the customer for the requested trip. The forty percent figure included two components: commission comprised twenty-five percent, while built-in gratuity comprised fifteen percent. Hoyt Livery required full-time drivers to be available six days a week.

         Until July 2013, Hoyt Livery did not keep hourly time records for its drivers. During the period relevant to this lawsuit, Hoyt Livery drivers did not receive additional compensation if they worked more than forty hours in a week. Regardless of how many hours a driver worked in a week or how many trips a driver took, all drivers earned the same forty percent commission per trip. Hoyt Livery has since changed their policy, and now pays drivers one and a half times their weekly commission when the driver works more than forty hours during that workweek. This case involved whether the earlier payment structure followed the FLSA, and the CMWA.

         On September 17, 2014, the Court (Meyer, J.) granted Plaintiff's motion to certify conditionally a FLSA collective action and to certify a Rule 23 class action as to the CMWA claims, with a class consisting of “all persons who have worked for Defendant . . . as full time limousine drivers between October 18, 2011 and the date of final judgment in this matter” (the “CMWA Class”). See Certification Order at 1-2, 13, ECF No. 43. In addition to Mr. Lassen, nine other plaintiffs opted in to the FLSA collective action (collectively, the “Opt-In Plaintiffs”), while the CMWA Class consists of thirty-five total members. See Approval Br. at 3-4, ECF No. 193-1.

         On March 22, 2017, Mr. Lassen filed an unopposed motion for preliminary approval of the class action settlement, ECF No. 193, which the Court granted in part and denied in part. ECF No. 201. The Court allowed the parties to send the proposed notice to CMWA Class members, using the notice procedures outlined in the settlement agreement. The Court, however, rejected two provisions of the settlement agreement related to the FLSA collective action and the Opt-In Plaintiffs, namely the (a) general release provision and (b) the confidentiality provision. The Court directed the parties to change those provisions of the settlement agreement, as further explained in the Court's June 5, 2017 Order.

         On December 5, 2017, on consent, Plaintiffs' moved the Court to order the unconditional preliminary approval of the proposed class action settlement, as amended. ECF No. 238.

         Satisfied with the general release provision, as amended, and the confidentiality provision, as amended, the Court granted this motion on December 6, 2017. ECF No. 204.

         On February 15, 2018, the Court held a Final Approval Hearing. ECF No. 255.

         On March 1, 2018, the Court approved the settlement terms in the Settlement and Release Agreement and the Amended Settlement and Release. Under the agreement, defendants agreed to pay a settlement fund of $670, 000 to Plaintiffs and Plaintiff's Counsel, which represented:

a. $120, 000 to Mr. Lassen and the Opt-In Plaintiffs, consistent with Section 8(a) of the Settlement Agreement and Release, to be paid “[w]ithin thirty (30) days of Final Approval of the settlement, as defined by Section 1(k) of the Settlement Agreement and Release;
b. $135, 000 to the CMWA Class, consistent with Section 8(c) of the Settlement Agreement and Release, to be paid “[n]o later than June 1, 2018;
c. an incentive award of $15, 000 to Mr. Lassen as the representative plaintiff in this case, consistent with Section 8(a) of the Settlement Agreement and Release, to be paid “[w]ithin thirty (30) days of Final Approval of the settlement, as defined ...

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