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Attorney Fee Issues Addressed in Uber Class Settlement

January 30, 2020 | Posted in : Billing Record / Entries, Contingency Fees / POF, Expenses / Costs, Fee Award, Fee Award Factors, Fee Dispute, Hourly Rates / Hourly Billing, Lodestar / Multiplier

A recent Law 360 story by Chris Villani, “Mass. Judge Oks $3M Uber Deal After Atty Fee Concerns,” reports that a Massachusetts federal judge approved a $3 million settlement between Uber Technologies Inc. and a class of riders claiming they were overcharged, signing off on a $900,000 attorney fee after previously expressing concern over the way fees are tabulated.  Senior U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock said the accord seemed fair, bringing the case filed in 2014 across the finish line after a trip to the First Circuit.  During a hearing in Boston last summer, the judge said he wanted lawyers from Bailey & Glasser LLP and the Law Office of Pedro A. Jaile to fully spell out why they deserved a fee nearing the seven-figure range when the average class member would be getting less than $20 in either Uber credit or a check.

In the end, the lead attorneys' share ended up in the same ballpark as the $990,000 figure floated last year.  Judge Woodlock approved $900,303 in fees, $8,697 in reimbursed expenses, and administrative expenses and costs not to exceed $70,000.  "The terms and provisions of the settlement and settlement agreement have been entered into in good faith and are hereby fully and finally approved as fair, reasonable and adequate as to, and in the best interests of, each of the parties and the class members," Judge Woodlock wrote in his 14-page order closing the case.

Each of the named plaintiffs in the suit will receive an additional $5,000, per the terms of the settlement.  "We are very pleased that the First Circuit resuscitated this case," said John Roddy of Bailey & Glasser.  "And that ultimately we were able to deliver significant compensation to Massachusetts Uber riders."

Last year in court, while saying that the amount requested by the attorneys leading the suit seemed fair, Judge Woodlock said he was "troubled" a bit by the way class action attorney fees are tabulated.  "I am not sure the way lodestars are calculated now are not misleading," Judge Woodlock said, noting that the figure used for an hourly rate is not always the amount paid by clients who are billed by the hour, rather than by contingency.  "The realization rate is … not necessarily the same as the stated rate," the judge said. "It goes along the lines of, 'My rate is $1,000, but for you, $800.'"