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Nurses Seek $7M in Fees/Costs in Wage & Hour Class Action Settlement

February 28, 2019 | Posted in : Class Action, Expenses / Costs, Fee Award, Fee Request, Hourly Rates / Hourly Billing, Lawyering

A recent Law 360 story by Adam Lidgett, “Nurses Seek $6.9M in Fees, Costs From $20M Wage Deal,” reports that a class of nearly 8,000 traveling nurses is asking a California federal court for about $6.85 million in fees and expenses for its attorneys' work that led to a $20 million settlement in an overtime suit against the Kaiser Foundation and a health care staffing contractor.  Class counsel urged the court to award $6,666,666 in attorney fees and $185,850.01 in litigation costs, after the class said in November it had settled the suit against Kaiser and AMN Healthcare Inc., the nurses’ employer that placed them at Kaiser Foundation hospitals in California.

The class said the fees they are seeking are reasonable for the work their attorneys performed, which included nearly 5,000 hours spent litigating the suit.  The class said that if it weren't for their attorneys’ ability and effort in fighting the defendant’s arguments and finding important evidence, they may have lost class certification and been left with no recovery.  The nurses, who have alleged they were shorted on overtime and denied proper meal breaks and rest periods, also asked that the three class representatives get $15,000 each as a service award.

“Even after proposed fees, costs and service awards, the average net recovery is approximately $1,570 per class member,” the plaintiffs said.  “This result is excellent, particularly in light of the class members’ relatively short tenures — just 26 weeks per class member, on average — in qualifying employment.  The average individual recovery also compares very favorably with analogous California wage and hour class action settlements.”  The motions came after the court in December granted the bid for preliminary approval of the settlement.

The nurses’ suit, which was removed to federal court in early 2016, alleged in part that AMN suppresses overtime by telling traveling nurses that overtime isn’t permitted and further discourages overtime by subjecting the traveling nurses to a cumbersome overtime approval process.  Moreover, the plaintiffs — who said in their suit they were required to work three 12-hour shifts per week — alleged they aren’t afforded proper meal and rest breaks through a variety of policies.  In addition to AMN Healthcare, the Kaiser entities named as defendants in the suit were Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Southern California Permanente Medical Group Inc. and The Permanente Medical Group Inc.

The case is Shaw et al. v. AMN Healthcare Inc. et al., case number 3:16-cv-02816, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.