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Category: Challenging Fees

Samsung Opposes Attorney Fees in “Duplicative Suit”

November 9, 2017

A recent Delaware Business Court Insider story by Tom McParland, “Samsung Opposes Fees in ‘Duplicative’ Suit, Citing Appeal” reports that Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. this week told a federal judge in Delaware that any decision on Imperium IP Holdings’ motion for sanctions for having to defend a “duplicative” suit should be delayed pending an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

In a 23-page filing, Samsung said Tuesday that a decision from the appeals court could moot Imperium’s request for $247,000 in the case, which followed a $20 million patent infringement ruling against Samsung in a Texas federal court. Last month, U.S. District Judge Mark A. Kearney dismissed Samsung’s second-filed case in Delaware and criticized the electronics giant for “duplicating” the earlier litigation in order to attack the result in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

“We are not the court of appeals for the Texas district court. Samsung cannot argue here what it already lost in Texas,” Kearney, visiting from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, wrote in an Oct. 10 memorandum opinion.

Imperium filed its motion for attorney fees two weeks later, arguing that Samsung’s “bad-faith” tactics had qualified the case as exceptional under U.S. patent law. The court, Imperium said, also had the authority to award fees based on Samsung’s decision to “unreasonably and vexatiously” multiply proceedings.

On Tuesday, Samsung notified Kearney that it was appealing the Oct. 10 order and asked that consideration of motion for attorney fees be deferred until after the Third Circuit could weigh in. Even then, Samsung said, the “exceptional” designation did not apply to a breach-of-contract suit, and Imperium had failed to prove bad faith conduct that would trigger the court’s discretion in granting sanctions.

“Samsung and Imperium have been engaged in hard-fought litigation for over three years, and Samsung’s filing and prosecution of this action in good-faith reliance on the forum selection clause is nothing more than vigorous advocacy,” attorneys for the company wrote. ”Awarding attorneys’ fees under these circumstances will only serve to promote what courts strive to avoid: a chilling effect on an attorney’s legitimate ethical obligation to represent clients zealously.”

As of Wednesday, Samsung’s appeal was not yet registered on an online docket-tracking service, though court documents showed Samsung’s counsel had made the applicable payments associated with the appeal.

The Delaware suit stemmed from a heated lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, where Imperium won a roughly $7 million jury verdict against Samsung for infringing patents for taking photos with an electronic device.

U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III of the Eastern District of Texas last year tripled the damages in the case, after finding Samsung had willfully infringed and repeatedly lied under oath. Samsung, Mazzant found, had known about Imperium’s patents for years and even tried to buy them through a broker before the case began in 2014.

Samsung has appealed those rulings to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Samsung filed its Delaware suit back in November 2015, 18 months after Imperium had sued in Texas. In court filings, the company alleged that Imperium had violated an earlier agreement not to sue over the patents, but former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson of the District of Delaware stayed the case while the Texas litigation proceeded.

Robinson’s stay was lifted in 2015, and the electronics giant filed a complaint alleging that Imperium had breached its contractual obligations by bringing its patent infringement claim and seeking ongoing royalties in Texas. The company argued that if the Delaware court declined to hear the merits of its claims, the merits of its arguments would never be heard.

In dismissing the complaint, however, Kearney said those issues were already up for appeal before the Federal Circuit.

“Samsung’s defenses, now dressed up as affirmative claims, do not belong in this second-filed case,” he wrote. “It is litigating these issues before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. We decline to jump into a dispute fully litigated before Judge Mazzant.”

The case is Samsung Electronics v. Imperium IP Holdings.

Fee Allocation Dispute in NCAA Concussion Case

September 21, 2017

A recent American Lawyer story by Roy Strom, “High-Powered Plaintiff’s Lawyers Battle Over Fees in NCAA Concussion Case,” reports that a group of prominent plaintiff’s lawyers are battling for their cut of potentially $21 million in legal fees related to a pending concussion settlement with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, one of the many litigation battles that the governing body for collegiate sports now faces.  The dispute between Chicago-based Jay Edelson and Steve Berman, a co-founder of Seattle-based plaintiffs powerhouse Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, began as a strategy disagreement as late as 2014.

That’s when an Edelson client objected to a class action settlement led by Berman’s firm and others that would have the NCAA create a $70 million medical monitoring program for current and former college athletes, as well as put $5 million toward concussion research.  Edelson’s objection sought to preserve personal injury claims on behalf of former student athletes in a variety of sports, including football.

As part of the settlement, the lead counsel at Hagens Berman and Joseph Siprut, the founder and managing partner of Chicago’s Siprut PC requested $15 million in fees for themselves and about 10 other firms.  The fee request was made in January with the firms stating that they had worked 18,000 hours on the case and reached 4.2 million people to alert them to a preliminary approval of a settlement in July 2016.

Edelson’s firm objected to that amount last week in a court filing that takes aim at various aspects of the lead counsels’ work and argues for no more than $8 million in fees to be awarded to Hagens Berman and Siprut.  The Edelson objection states that the requested fees, which represent 21 percent of the amount of the settlement, are too high.  It also argues the lead counsels’ request takes credit for $50 million in settlement value that Edelson claims his objector added when a judge agreed to knock out a “reversion” provision that would have returned to the NCAA unused money in the concussion monitoring program.

Berman’s firm, which is disputing Edelson’s request for $6 million in fees, argues the reversion provision would not have added anything close to $50 million in value to the settlement and that U.S. District Judge John Zee decided to knock it out of the deal for reasons that had little to do with Edelson’s objections.

Edelson’s firm had originally sparred with the lead counsels’ tactics in the case by saying they were not providing monetary benefits for potentially injured college athletes.  Unlike the National Football League’s $1 billion class action settlement with retired players, which continues to have its own unique issues ahead of resolution, the NCAA’s accord does not provide a fund to compensate injured athletes.

Fearing the settlement would bar athletes from pursuing personal injury claims, Edelson objected to create a “carve-out” for those claims.  His firm, working with Sol Weiss of Philadelphia’s Anapol Weiss, is now leading a series of nearly 50 class action suits on behalf of athletes who played the same sport at the same school.  For instance, the widow of a former University of Texas football player is the named plaintiff in a class action on behalf of all Longhorns football players who played between 1952 to 2010.

In a filing last week, Berman’s firm argues that Edelson’s firm should receive fees in the NCAA settlement case that represent a “pro rata portion” of his fees tied to the issue of arguing for a personal-injury carve out in the case.  That amount would be something less than $1.4 million.

Mark Mester, global chair of the consumer class action practice at Latham & Watkins in Chicago, is representing the NCAA in the litigation. The Indianapolis-based organization paid nearly $8.2 million to Latham—and another $5.8 million to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom—during 2014-15, according to the NCAA’s most recent federal tax filing.

Insurer’s Fee Request Challenged by Film Producer

September 8, 2017

A recent Law 360 story by Rick Archer, “Producer Fights Insurer’s $1.9M Fee Bid in Film Accident Row,” reports that the producer of an Allman Brothers biopic objected to a demand it pay $1.9 million in attorneys’ fees for its unsuccessful attempt to win more insurance coverage for a fatal filming accident, saying it had done nothing worthy of sanction.

Film Allman LLC denied accusations by New York Marine and General Insurance Co. Inc. that the producer’s suit seeking additional coverage for the 2014 accident had been filed in bad faith, saying it had good-faith arguments for all its claims it was owed more coverage than New York Marine provided and should not be expected to pay the insurer’s claimed legal fees.

“Film Allman has a good faith belief in each of its claims, and there is evidence to support them.  Moreover, even if New York Marine is unhappy about some of the results, there is absolutely no evidence that Film Allman did anything for an improper purpose such as harass New York Marine or to cause undue delay or cost,” it said.

An Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation showed Film Allman didn’t warn crew members working on the film “Midnight Rider” in February 2014 that they were filming on live train tracks or that CSX had denied a filming permit for the tracks prior to an accident on the first day of shooting that killed 27-year-old Sarah Jones and seriously injured several other workers.

In March 2015, the film’s director, assistant director and executive producer, respectively, pled guilty to, was found guilty of and entered an Alford plea to charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass.  A defendant entering an Alford plea acknowledges that the prosecution has the evidence necessary to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but nevertheless maintains that he is innocent.  New York Marine provided a defense to Film Allman, paid $5 million of a $6.5 million settlement to Jones' family, and then bowed out because policy limits were exhausted.

Film Allman filed suit against New York Marine in September 2014.  In May U.S. District Judge Otis Wright II ruled New York Marine was entitled to bow out under the terms of the commercial general policy, despite the fact that there are other suits remaining.  In December he had found coverage under a separate motion picture producers policy was barred by a criminal acts exclusion.  In August, New York Marine moved for more than $1.9 million in attorneys’ fees, claiming that as there was no dispute of either the criminal convictions or the policy limits, Film Allman had brought the suit in bad faith.

“As reflected by the record in this case, including in the court’s summary judgment rulings, Film Allman’s claims were fundamentally lacking any legal or evidentiary support and were, instead, based on assertions that it knew were false,” New York Marine said.

Film Allman, however, argued it did have good-faith arguments that Jones’ death did not trigger the exclusion because it had evidence there was genuine confusion over whether permission had been granted to film on the tracks and the death was not directly caused by an intentional criminal act.  It said it also had good-faith arguments that California insurance law required New York Marine to defend it from all of the suits arising from the accident, regardless of the policy limit.

“New York Marine asserts that if Film Allman had only accepted the fact that there was no coverage, it could have saved New York Marine all of its exorbitant litigation expenses.  But the same could be true of any policyholder seeking defense or coverage that an insurer denies,” it said.

The case is Film Allman LLC v. New York Marine and General Insurance Co. Inc., case number 2:14-cv-07069, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Creditor Questions Fees in La Paloma Bankruptcy

August 30, 2017

A recent Law 360 story by Rick Archer, “O’Melveny Blasted for $2.6M Fee Bid in La Paloma Chapter 11,reports that the senior creditor of California-based power producer La Paloma Generating Co. LLC objected to the legal fees submitted by the producer’s former counsel O'Melveny & Myers LLP, calling the $2.6 million request “exorbitant.”   LNV Corp. called for O'Melveny’s request for fees for its seven months of work on the case to be cut by more than a third, saying it was “bewildered” by how much O'Melveny was asking for compared to the progress made on the case during its tenure.

“This amount is exorbitant in light of the fact that (i) this is not a complicated case, (ii) there were virtually no contested hearings held while O’Melveny was debtors’ counsel, and (iii) the debtors made no progress towards exiting these cases during O’Melveny’s tenure,” it said.

The four-unit power plant sought Chapter 11 protection on Dec. 6, saying it had been driven into the red by price competition from alternative energy sources and difficulty in meeting California's demands for payments on carbon emissions under the state's cap-and-trade program to combat climate change.  In late July, the company said it had settled a control dispute with LNV and that a confirmation hearing on its $524 million Chapter 11 plan was scheduled for Oct. 12.

O’Melveny had asked for approximately $2.6 million for fees and expenses incurred between Dec. 6 and June 30, when it was replaced as counsel by Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and Richards Layton & Finger LLP.

LNV asked that the fee be reduced by at least $793,000, saying the firm submitted more than 1,300 excessive or unjustified hours.  It said this included 470 hours in fee applications, well exceeding the standard of 5 percent of all time billed for applications.

“Work related to the plan and disclosure statement was entirely wasteful, as O’Melveny never filed a plan and disclosure statement or even shared a draft with LNV,” it said.  “And the time spent on the use of cash collateral is indefensible given that there was never a contested hearing on the use of cash collateral or any related dispute that wasn’t swiftly resolved.”

LNV counsel Thomas E. Lauria said in a phone interview that while he usually considers fee disputes a “sideshow” in bankruptcy cases, in this case the large fee and the lack of benefits for La Paloma required a response.  “It’s unfortunate we find ourselves in the extraordinary situation that there are issues here we cannot ignore,” he said.

The case is In re: La Paloma Generating Co. LLC et al., case number 1:16-bk-12700, in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

Tenth Circuit Affirms In Camera Only Review Rule of Billing Records

August 29, 2017

A recent Law 360 story by Christine Powell, “Tribal Co. Can Keep Atty Fees in $3M Gov’t Contract Row,” reports that the Tenth Circuit cemented an attorneys’ fee award given to one of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe's businesses and its leadership after escaping Team Systems International LLC’s lawsuit alleging that they breached an agreement for developing government contracts by failing to pay it nearly $3 million.

In a brief, unanimous ruling, a panel of three of the circuit court’s judges affirmed an Oklahoma district court’s award of $29,234 in attorneys’ fees to Fort Sill Apache Industries, its president and CEO Jeff Haozous and its board of directors as the prevailing party on TSI’s claims.

The attorneys’ fee award came after the Tenth Circuit last year separately affirmed the dismissal of TSI’s allegations that FSAI breached an agreement under which TSI supported FSAI’s work on government construction contracts by failing to fully pay it, concluding that TSI had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

When appealing the attorneys’ fee award, TSI had argued that the lower court abused its discretion by conducting an in camera review of certain unredacted billing and time records because TSI could not meaningfully challenge the reasonableness of the fee bid, but the panel rejected that contention.

“This court has held that a court reviewing a fee request did not abuse its discretion in denying the responding party access to the itemized time records and conducting in camera review of those records,” the panel said.  “Here, TSI did not pursue other avenues of discovery or contend on appeal that alternative discovery would have been inadequate.  Moreover, TSI has not shown that the district court’s reasons for its ruling were inadequate.”

The case is Team Sys. International v. Haozous et al, case number 16-6277, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

Fee Request Challenge Sought in IP Suit

June 2, 2017

A recent Law 360 story by Nicole Narea, “Stanford, ThermoLife Seek To Slash Fee Award in IP Suit” reports that Stanford University and ThermoLife International asked a California federal court to...

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