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Mouloki v. Epee

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

May 7, 2018

CHRISTINE EKALLIIPSE MOULOKI, Plaintiff,
v.
MARIE PAULE EPEE & ERIC NGADO EPEE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HON VIRGINIA M. KENDALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Christine Ekalliipse Mouloki filed a nine-count Complaint seeking relief for the childcare she provided Defendants Marie Paule Epee and Eric Ngado Epee after she moved to the United States from Cameroon. (Dkt. 1). After a four-day trial, the jury found for Defendants on Plaintiff's claims under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 (“TVPRA”) and state law claim for fraudulent misrepresentation and found for Plaintiff on her claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and state law claims for conversion, unjust enrichment and violation of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (the “Wage Act”). (Dkts. 229, 232). The jury awarded Plaintiff a total of $156, 688.00 in damages. Id. On July 18, 2017, the Court entered judgment on the verdict but did not set forth a damages amount or indicate whether any prejudgment interest would be included in the judgment. (Dkt. 230).

         During trial, a dispute arose between the parties as to the proper calculation of damages under the Wage Act, and the Court instructed the parties to submit briefs on the issue by July 21, 2017. (Dkt. 224). Plaintiff timely filed a Motion to Award Statutory Damages of 2% Monthly Interest under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act. (Dkt. 233). Defendants failed to file any brief and, on July 28, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion. (Dkt. 235). On August 12, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend the Court's July 18 Judgment to include the damages awarded by the jury and the 2% statutory penalty and to award prejudgment interest. (Dkt. 236). On August 18, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion to Vacate the Court's July 28 Order granting Plaintiffs Motion to Award the 2% statutory damages. (Dkt. 247). Meanwhile, Plaintiff filed a Bill of Costs (Dkt. 245) and a Motion for Attorneys' Fees (Dkt. 261), both of which were objected to by Defendants. (Dkts. 254, 277).

         On October 27, 2017, this Court referred the post judgment motions to Magistrate Judge Schenkier, who issued a pair of Report and Recommendations recommending that the Court:

• grant Defendants' Motion to Vacate the July 28, 2017 Order (Dkt. 257);
• partially grant Plaintiffs Motion to Amend the Judgment (Dkt. 236) to add the award of damages determined by the jury in the following amounts:
(1) A total of $78, 344.00 in damages against defendant Marie Epee ($37, 730.00 in unpaid wages for violations of the FLSA; $37, 730.00 in liquidated damages for violations of the FLSA; $0.00 in damages for violations of the Wage Act; $384.00 in damages for conversion; and $2, 500.00 in damages for unjust enrichment); and
(2) A total of $78, 344.00 in damages against defendant Eric Epee ($37, 730.00 in unpaid wages for violations of the FLSA; $37, 730.00 in liquidated damages for violations of the FLSA; $0.00 in damages for violations of the Wage Act; $384.00 in damages for conversion; and $2, 500.00 in damages for unjust enrichment);
• grant Plaintiffs Motion for Attorneys' Fees (Dkt. 261) in the reduced amount of $460, 829.28; and
• grant Plaintiffs Bill of Costs (Dkt. 245) in the amount of $11, 345.90.

(Dkts. 282, 284).

         Plaintiff objected to Judge Schenkier's denial of the portion of her Motion to Amend the Judgment seeking to add the 2% statutory penalty under the Wage Act and prejudgment interest under the Illinois Interest Act. (Dkt. 285). Defendants objected to Judge Schenkier's award of damages against each Defendant separately rather than jointly (Dkt. 286) and of Plaintiff's attorneys' fees and costs. (Dkt. 287).

         For the reasons stated herein, each party's objections are overruled, except that the Court will amend the Judgment to include the award of damages determined by the jury in the total amount of $156, 688.00 ($75, 460.00 in unpaid wages for violations of the FLSA; $75, 460.00 in liquidated damages for violations of the FLSA; $0.00 in damages for violations of the Wage Act; $786.00 in damages for conversion; and $5, 000.00 in damages for unjust enrichment) against Defendants jointly and severally.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 72(b) requires a party that disagrees with a magistrate judge's report and recommendation on a dispositive motion to file “specific, written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2); see also Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C), a district court reviews de novo any portion of the magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which specific written objections have been filed. See Kruger v. Apfel, 214 F.3d 784, 787 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999)); Rajaratnam v. Moyer, 47 F.3d 922, 925 (7th Cir. 1995). In conducting a de novo review pursuant to Rule 72(b), the Court need not conduct a new hearing but must give fresh consideration to each specific objection made. Rajaratnam, 47 F.3d at 925 n.8. The district court judge makes the ultimate decision to adopt, reject, or modify the recommendation, or return it to the magistrate judge with further instructions. Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Ctrs., Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 760 (7th Cir. 2009); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3).

         OBJECTIONS

         I. Plaintiff's Objection 1 (Dkt. 285): The Magistrate Erred in Denying the 2% Statutory Penalty under the 2011 Amendments to the Wage Act

         Plaintiff objects to the denial of the portion of her Motion to Amend the Judgment to add the 2% statutory penalty under the 2011 amendments to the Wage Act on several grounds: (a) that Defendants forfeited their retroactivity defense; (b) that the Magistrate Judge erred in disregarding a district court case holding the 2011 amendments are retroactive; (c) that the Magistrate Judge erred in concluding that the 2011 amendments have an express delayed implementation provision; (d) that the Magistrate Judge erred in concluding that the 2011 amendments were substantive, not ...


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