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Category: Fee Award Factors

Class Counsel Win $15.2M Fee Award in Home Depot Breach

January 24, 2020

A recent Law 360 story by Mike LaSusa, “Home Depot Breach Class Attys Score $15.2M After Fee Fight,” reports that attorneys representing banks and other financial institutions that sued over Home Depot's 2014 data breach won a $15.2 million fee award after the Eleventh Circuit nixed an earlier award and asked the Georgia federal court that handled the case to take another look.  U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr. awarded the attorneys $14.5 million in fees and just over $730,000 in expenses, rejecting Home Depot’s contention that the Eleventh Circuit’s ruling limited the Georgia federal court’s latitude in deciding the fee issue.

The appeals court ruled in July that the lower court had erred in applying a multiplier of 1.3 to an $11.773 million lodestar, leading to a $15.3 million award.  Home Depot said that decision triggered a clause in its settlement with the financial institutions under which Home Depot would only be responsible for the lower amount if the attorney fees were reduced on appeal.  But Judge Thrash pointed out that the Eleventh Circuit left it up to him to determine the best way to decide the attorney fees.

“If the Eleventh Circuit had intended that this court simply enter an order awarding class counsel $11.773 million plus interest, as Home Depot contends, this court believes the appellate court would have said so explicitly,” the judge said.  “The Eleventh Circuit did not reduce the amount of the award; rather, the appellate court reversed the award and remanded for reconsideration.”

Rather than use the lodestar method that had yielded the earlier fee award, Judge Thrash instead calculated the new award based on a percentage of the benefit to the class.  Calculating the benefit to the class to be $42.5 million, the judge ruled that one-third of that amount would be appropriate, and added on interest as specified in the settlement agreement.

The attorneys asked for $18 million in late August, contending that their work had resulted in not only the $27.25 million settlement, but also pushed the retailer to offer some of the country's biggest banks $14.5 million to release their claims.

$100M Attorney Fee Award in $1B Vereit Settlement

January 23, 2020

A recent Law 360 story by Reenat Sinay, “Robbins Geller Bags $100M in Fees for $1B Vereit Settlement,” reports that Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP attorneys will receive a $100 million payday for securing a $1.025 billion settlement for Vereit Inc. investors in a suit that accused the real estate investment trust of lying about its books, a New York federal judge ruled.  U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein approved the massive settlement but decided to take more time to rule on attorney fees due to the size of the deal.

Robbins Geller, which represented lead class plaintiff TIAA-CREF, had asked for attorney fees worth 12.4% of the settlement fund, which comes out to $127.1 million, plus expenses of just over $5.1 million.  The lawyers said in their December fee bid that the 12.4% amount "falls far below" the usual range for cases of this size and complexity, and noted a 13% fee award in a $2.3 billion class-action settlement was recently affirmed by the Second Circuit.

Without explaining his reasons for approving a lower amount than requested, Judge Hellerstein awarded $100 million in fees and $5,154,721 in expenses.  "The court finds that the amount of fees awarded is fair, reasonable, and appropriate under both the lodestar and 'percentage-of-recovery' methods," he said.  "Lead counsel has pursued the litigation and achieved the settlement with skill, perseverance and diligent advocacy."

The settlement ended five years of "hard-fought" litigation and represents a recovery of 50% of the maximum recoverable damages — the highest percentage recovery ever in a major private securities class action ahead of trial, according to Robbins Geller.

Class Counsel Earn $36.5M in Fees in Navistar Engine Settlement

January 22, 2020

A recent Law 360 story by Mike Curley, “Class Counsel Gets $36.5M in Navistar Engine Settlement,” reports that an Illinois federal judge has approved $36.5 million in attorney fees as part of a $135 million settlement that ends litigation against Navistar alleging the company sold diesel engines with defective emissions systems.  U.S. District Judge Joan B. Gottschall granted final approval of the settlement, saying the attorney fees are reasonable in light of the 74,000 hours poured into the case by 15 firms that represented the class of truck owners.

In addition to the attorney fees, the judge approved $3.5 million in reimbursement for out-of-pocket costs for class counsel and $25,000 service awards for each of the 29 named plaintiffs, or $725,000 total.  "After many years of hard-fought litigation, we're happy that Judge Gottschall — recognizing the quality of this settlement and the work that went into achieving it — granted our fee and expense request in its entirety," Adam Levitt of DiCello Levitt Gutzler, co-lead counsel in the case litigation, told Law360.  "We look forward to continuing to work with class members in implementing the settlement and distributing the substantial relief that we obtained."

The final approval comes two weeks after, Judge Gottschall signed off on the $135 million settlement, which ends litigation brought by truck drivers who claim that 2010-13 model year MaxxForce 11 and 13 Advanced "Exhaust Gas Recirculation" diesel engines have a defectively designed integrated emissions system.  Class members have three options for compensation under the deal. They can choose a lump payment of up to $2,500, a rebate option of up to $10,000 to buy a new Navistar truck or recoup up to $15,000 in out-of-pocket costs from repairs related to the alleged defects in their vehicles.

For the purposes of the settlement, the judge certified the class as anyone who owned or leased the 2011-2014 model vehicles equipped with the MaxxForce 11- or 13-liter engines at issue in the suit before Aug. 11, 2019.

$6.2M Fee Award in Virgin Airline Wage Class Action

January 21, 2020

A recent Law 360 story by Vin Gurrieri, “Attys Behind $77M Virgin Wage Win Sought $13M Get $6M,” reports that lawyers for Virgin America flight attendants who recently won $77 million over claims the airline stiffed workers on pay and rest breaks were awarded nearly $6 million in fees by a California federal judge, which was about half the amount they had requested.  U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar awarded $5.7 million to attorneys representing a class of flight attendants led by named plaintiff Julia Bernstein who alleged that Virgin America Inc. flouted California labor laws by not paying them for all hours worked, including pay for overtime, and denying them state-mandated meal and rest breaks.

After having largely granted the flight attendants' bid for summary judgment, Judge Tigar a year ago awarded the flight attendants $77 million in damages.  The airline has since challenged the award to the Ninth Circuit, an appeal that is still pending.  In the meantime, Judge Tigar issued an order finding that the class members' legal representatives were due almost $6 million in fees and an additional $251,000 in court-related expenses.  That number, however, fell short of the approximately $13 million in fees and expenses the lawyers had sought.

Judge Tigar agreed with Virgin that class counsel didn't provide enough detail about certain declared hours and sided with the company in its objection to certain categories, like one labeled "other," that were billed in blocks.  "Virgin takes issue with plaintiffs' use of an 'Other' category, which accounts for 148.1 hours of the fee request," the judge said on the latter issue.  "Given that plaintiffs neglected to identify even representative examples of the types of tasks included, the court cannot award fees for those hours.  The court therefore excludes all 148.1 hours from the fee request."

The judge also shaved the billing rates of several attorneys representing the class but rejected Virgin's arguments that the class members' failure to win on certain claims warranted a significant reduction in fees awarded, leading him to arrive at the $5.7 million figure.  "Ultimately, the court finds that the hours expended were reasonable in light of the overall success achieved, and agrees that success was exceptional," Judge Tigar said.

$22.5M Fee Award in Mushroom Antitrust Settlement

January 10, 2020

A recent Legal Intelligencer story by Max Mitchell, “US Judge Awards $18M in Attorney Fees After Settlement in Mushroom Antitrust Suit,” reports that the judge handling the litigation over allegations that mushroom farmers conspired to fix prices has agreed to award class counsel more than $18 million for their work in the case.  U.S. District Judge Berle Schiller of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania agreed to award $18.23 million in attorney fees, plus $4.25 million in expenses to the 11 firms that served as class counsel in the litigation.

In August, the court granted preliminary approval of an agreement to settle seven claims for $33.7 million, after having previously approved settlements with three other defendants for nearly $12 million.  The order should finalize the litigation.

“In prosecuting this action, class counsel have expended more than 42,000 hours of uncompensated time, and incurred substantial out of pocket expenses, with no guarantee of recovery,” Schiller said in the order.  “Class counsel’s hours were reasonably expended in this highly complex case that was vigorously litigated for more than 13 years, and their time was expended at a significant risk of non-payment.”  Schiller’s class counsel award was the same amount that the parties had requested in the motion filed in November seeking attorney fees.

Though Schiller’s 11-page order did not outline exactly how much should be allocated to each firm, the motion requesting attorney fees allocated the lion’s share to New York-based Garwin Gerstein & Fisher.  According to the filing, the firm worked more than 11,000 hours on the case, with Odom & Des Roches working the second largest number of hours at nearly 9,000.  The firm that spent the third largest amount of time on the litigation, according to the filing, was Philadelphia-based Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, with nearly 6,500 hours.

Schiller’s motion directed Garwin Gerstein to allocate attorney fees and costs among the other firms serving as class counsel.  Several entities that directly purchased mushrooms originally filed the antitrust class action in 2006 against the members of the former Eastern Mushroom Marketing Cooperative.