A recent Law 360 story by Max Jaeger, “Attys Seek $5M Cut of Buccaneers Junk Fax Settlement” reports that the legal team that got the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to settle a decade-old Telephone Consumer Protection Act class action for $19.75 million in March says it rolled the dice on the risky litigation and should be awarded fees and costs totaling more than $5 million. The firms Siprut PC, Addison & Howard PA and Anderson + Wanca want to divvy up 25% of the settlement — which works out to $4,937,000 — plus $250,000 for costs for the 6,188.15 hours of combined attorney and professional time put into the case, according to the motion.
They say the 25% figure is apt because it conforms to the Eleventh Circuit's benchmark. But even if the court applied so-called Johnson Factors for awards above 25%, the time they invested, the novelty of the case, the risk they incurred and the outcome they achieved would satisfy those and support the award, according to the motion. "Few lawyers will take on a lawsuit that consumes significant attorney time, involves uncertain questions and requires the lawyers to advance large out-of-pocket costs, with no guarantee of payment," the filing says. "Although class counsel were able to achieve an excellent result for the class, achieving this outcome was anything but certain when they agreed to take the case."
The TCPA does not provide for attorney fees to a prevailing plaintiff, so lawyers must rely on a large recovery to pay their own bills. Class counsel advanced more than $250,000 to prosecute the Bucs case while they "risked receiving nothing in return," the filing says. Their costs actually exceeded a quarter-million dollars, but the settlement agreement capped their request, they said. Driving up the costs were $20,000 for an expert witness and more than $110,000 for class counsel in other jurisdictions, mostly Canada, that the plaintiffs needed to obtain discovery, according to the filing. They paid Teplitsky Colson LLP $88,593.42 and Koskie Minsky LLP $23,000 for the local representation, they said.
Class representatives Cin-Q Automobiles Inc. and Medical & Chiropractic Clinic Inc. sued the Buccaneers after the organization hired a Canadian "fax broadcaster" called FaxQom to send 343,011 faxes from July 2009 through June 2010 advertising tickets to team games, allegedly in violation of the TCPA. The legal battle began in state court in 2009, but Cin-Q filed the instant federal action in 2013 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled state and federal courts share jurisdiction over TCPA actions.
The motion also seeks to set aside $10,000 each for Cin-Q and M&W as incentive awards for acting as class representatives. But that would only be payable if a 2020 Eleventh Circuit decision barring such incentives is vacated or otherwise reversed before the Bucs settlement is finally approved, the motion notes. U.S. Magistrate Judge Anthony E. Porcelli gave his preliminary blessing to the agreement's top-line numbers on March 29, but the motion reveals how the lawyers agreed back in 2015 to divvy the spoils should they prevail.
Tampa Firm Addison & Howard PA, which initiated Cin-Q's lawsuit in 2009, would claim 28%; Chicago litigation firm Siprut PC would receive 16%; and Illinois class action litigators Anderson + Wanca, which joined forces with Addison for the case in 2013, would take the remaining 56%. James M. Thomas of Tampa was to split the 16% chunk with Siprut PC, but he is no longer licensed to practice law in Florida, the motion says. According to public records, the Supreme Court of the State of Florida suspended him from practicing there for one year in a December 2020 decision.