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Category: Class Incentive Awards

$22.5M in Fees in $100M Asbestos Settlement in NJ

September 27, 2021

A recent Law 360 story by Mike Curley, “BASF, Cahill Gordon To Pay $22.5M Atty Fees in Asbestos Suit,” reports that a New Jersey federal judge granted final approval to a $100 million settlement to resolve claims that BASF Catalysts LLC's predecessor and its former counsel at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP concealed that industrial and commercial talc from a Vermont mine may contain asbestos.  As part of the deal, class counsel will receive $22.5 million in attorney fees, as well as $1.2 million for costs and expenses incurred during the case and for the administration of the settlement, according to the order.  The six named plaintiffs, led by Kimberlee Williams, will each receive a $50,000 incentive award.

Christopher M. Placitella of Cohen Placitella & Roth PC, representing the plaintiffs, told Law360 that the total settlement comes to $100 million between the attorney fees and costs, incentive awards, $3.5 million for administering notice to the class, and the $72.5 million fund to be paid to the class.  He added that class members will be able to seek between $3,500 and $300,000 from the fund.  U.S. District Judge Brian R. Martinotti also certified a settlement class consisting of anyone who brought an asbestos suit against Englehard Corp. between 1984 and 2011 over the talc products in question, and who had either voluntarily dismissed or settled the suit or had it involuntarily dismissed before March 2011.

According to the lawsuit, Englehard, which was acquired by BASF in 2006, retained Cahill Gordon to defend it against claims that the Emtal Talc it produced between 1967 and 1983 contained asbestos.  The plaintiffs said Cahill Gordon and Englehard falsely said there was no evidence or testimony that the products contained asbestos, and had used those assertions to dismiss or settle thousands of claims.

Judge Martinotti said that the deal was entered into in good faith following substantial discovery and is a fair, reasonable and adequate method of resolving the claims at issue in the suit.  Williams and the other named plaintiffs asked the court for preliminary approval of the deal in July 2020, and the court granted preliminary approval in September of that year, according to court documents.

Class Counsel Seek $1.2M in Fees in Drizly Data Breach Settlement

July 17, 2021

A recent Law 360 story by Brian Dowling, “Class Attys Eye $1.2M After Drizly Data Breach Deal”, reports that attorneys for Drizly customers whose credit card information was allegedly compromised by hackers asked a Massachusetts federal judge to award them $1.2 million in attorney fees and costs for their work on the case the alcohol delivery company has agreed to settle for as much as $7.1 million.

The Boston-based company had agreed to pay the group of class attorneys — from Block & Leviton LLP, Keller Lenkner LLC, Lowey Dannenberg PC, Carlson Lynch LLP and Thompson Consumer Law Group PC — up to $1.2 million, in addition to the settlement funds that are to be paid to about 2.5 million affected consumers.  The attorneys urged U.S. District Judge Leo T. Sorokin to sign off on the about $1.9 million in fees and about $13,000 in costs for their work on the case, which the firms predicted would have been "fiercely contested" and faced significant risks for the customers' claims.

"These risks are compounded by the fact that data breach litigation is a relatively novel area of law," the class counsel said.  "The most immediate risk of a potential adverse ruling involved Drizly's motion to compel arbitration, which was pending when the parties reached this settlement."  The attorneys said even if the customers won on the arbitration question, Drizly would have kicked the issue to the First Circuit to review, dragging out the litigation and increasing the risk that the case could have ended with no benefit to the class.

Altogether, the legal team spent more than 1,100 hours on the case, resulting in a lodestar amount of $670,199, according to the attorneys. The fee request amounts to a "reasonable" multiplier of 1.7 from that number, the attorneys said.  Hourly billing rates for the attorneys ranged from $575 to $1025 for partner-level lawyers, $400 to $800 for associates and $200 to $315 for paralegals and other nonattorney staff, the filing said.  The request also seeks $8,000 in awards to be split between the four named plaintiffs in the class.

A group of Drizly customers filed suit against the alcohol e-commerce company in August 2020 after it warned users of a major data breach the month before. The potential class action suit claimed the company was slow to report the breach, and customers cited evidence they said showed their credit card details had been for sale on the dark web since February 2020.

Drizly, which is being acquired for $1.1 billion by Uber Technologies Inc., in November asked the court to send the dispute to arbitration due to a provision in its terms of service as well as a class action waiver that it said barred the collective action.  The parties met in January — the arbitration question still pending — and agreed to settlement terms within a week.

Class Counsel Earn $10M in Fees in $31M Keurig Antitrust Settlement

June 23, 2021

A recent Law 360 story by Bryan Koenig, “Class Counsel Awarded $10M in Fees From $31M Keurig Deal, reports that a New York federal judge signed off on a $10.3 million attorney fees award, plus $2.3 million in litigation costs, for plaintiff firms that negotiated a $31 million antitrust settlement with Keurig Green Mountain Inc. resolving claims the coffee giant monopolized the market for single-serve coffee packs.  U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick also granted final approval to the deal itself covering indirect buyers who purchased Keurig K-Cup Portion Packs through middlemen between September 2010 and August 2020.  Taking the lead on negotiating that settlement were attorneys from Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP, Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP and Pearson Simon & Warshaw LLP.

The firms, backed by others, had sought approval for their one-third cut last month on arguments that the request was fair and reasonable in light of the length, complexity and risks involved in pursuing the litigation.  Judge Broderick agreed, signing off on legal costs that also include up to $911,286.43 in administrative and notice costs for JND Legal Administration, along with a $3,000 award for each of 11 class representatives who submitted to depositions and another $1,500 for the remaining 20 named plaintiffs.

The settlement, which does not affect ongoing claims from Keurig competitors like TreeHouse Foods Inc., came out of suits brought against Keurig that were consolidated into multidistrict litigation in 2014 over allegations of anti-competitive practices in the marketing of the company's single-serve packs of roasted and ground coffee for use in its coffee machines.

Buyers and coffee companies, including TreeHouse, alleged Keurig's anti-competitive actions included forcing distributors to enter exclusive agreements, filing baseless patent infringement lawsuits against competitors and attempting to dissuade retailers from selling competitors' products.  They also alleged Keurig misled consumers into believing that rival pods wouldn't work with "Keurig 2.0" coffee machines and modified the machines purely to make them incompatible with competitor pods.

In April, the court allowed the attorneys general of Illinois and Florida to object to the method of distributing the $31 million settlement to residents of their states.  Neither Keurig nor the indirect buyers who reached the deal opposed the intervention bid, though the judge said the settlement class has "made clear" it will not willingly change the allocation plan and sought to reserve the right to argue that the objections should have come sooner.

The indirect buyer class cut a deal with the Illinois and Florida enforcers last week that recognized the ability of residents of those states to recover antitrust damages as indirect buyers.  The revised plan treats Florida and Illinois as "repealer states," putting them among those that have acted at the state level to counter the U.S. Supreme Court's Illinois Brick doctrine, which generally blocks indirect buyers from securing monetary damages under the Sherman Act.  The indirect plaintiffs filed the revision, which does not change the Keurig settlement itself, the same day as a special master's report that recommended adopting the changes.

Judge Wary of Hourly Rates in Subaru Windshield Class Settlement

June 11, 2021

A recent Law 360 story by Jeannie O’Sullivan, “NJ Judge OKs Subaru Windshield Deal, Wary On Counsel Fee,” reports that a New Jersey federal judge gave final approval to a settlement that would give a class of Subaru drivers extended warranties and a reimbursement program to resolve claims over crack-prone windshields, but said class counsel still needs to justify its $515,000 fee request.  During a hearing held via Zoom, U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb said that the settlement was fair, reasonable and adequate.  The deal will offer what the judge said was "very generous" relief to the current and former owners and lessees of about 231,000 Subaru Outback and Legacy vehicles from model years 2015 and 2016.  "It puts them in a very good position," Judge Bumb said of the settlement, agreeing to certify the class and approve the deal.

The resolution of the claims — in which Subaru denies liability — was the result of arm's length negotiations between counsel, Judge Bumb said, calling it "impressive" that the settlement notices reached 96% of the proposed class.  The deal drew only five objections, most of which she said were "the product of confusion."  Judge Bumb also directed class counsel Glancy Prongay & Murray LLP and Greenstone Law PC to provide supplemental briefing to bolster their request for attorney fees and expenses.  In their April motion, the firms specified hourly rates ranging between $800 and $850 and said they spent more than 1,200 hours on the case.

The firms' motion characterized their fee request as small relative to the deal's overall value, significantly less than the firms' actual lodestar and expenses. But Judge Bumb said that without more information, she was "somewhat handicapped in conducting an analysis" as to the reasonableness of the rate as well as the time spent on the case.  The judge pointed to a New Jersey federal court decision from August 2019, in which Chief U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson, presiding over a case filed by drivers of Chrysler vehicles with allegedly defective automatic transmissions, noted that a $725-an-hour rate fell "on the outer end of reasonableness for this geographic area."

Judge Bumb also wondered about the amount of time class counsel actually spent on the Subaru case, given that the settlement deal was modeled on Subaru's prelitigation offer to extend the warranties.  Class attorney Mark S. Greenstone told the court that the total fee requested effectively reduces their hourly rate to about $600.  He pointed out that class counsel's tasks included filing an amended complaint, adding three new plaintiffs to the litigation, enlisting experts to analyze the windshields at issue, serving formal discovery and mediating the case over a year after it was filed.

In their motion for attorney fees, the firms described the negotiations as "intense, adversarial, and complex."  They noted that it wasn't a common fund settlement, so the fee wouldn't cut into the relief for the class.  The windshields at issue either cracked for no reason at all or under very slight impact, according to the complaint.  The replacement windows provided by Subaru were similarly defective, leading to multiple replacements in some cases, the complaint said.

Making a case for the deal during the hearing, Greenstone said unlimited mileage isn't a common term for car warranties, noting that the windshield replacements on average cost more than $500.  "So, in terms of the substantive relief, it is really hard to imagine a better and more appropriate remedy even if this case had gone to trial," Greenstone told the court.  The deal also includes a class representative award of $5,000 for each of the four named plaintiffs. Judge Bumb said during the hearing that she was not questioning the class representative awards.

Judge Approves $2.1M in Fees in Illumina Shareholder Suit

March 19, 2021

A recent Law 360 story by Emille Ruscoe, “Levi & Korsinsky Earns $2.1M for Illumina Shareholder Suit,reports that the Levi & Korsinsky LLP legal team representing investors in biotechnology company Illumina Inc. in their proposed shareholder class action will receive $2.1 million in attorney fees, a federal judge in San Diego.  In the fee order, U.S. District Judge M. James Lorenz granted the firm's request for $2.1 million for their work on the case, which accused the company of artificially inflating its stock prices by hiding declining sales from the public.

Judge Lorenz also approved reimbursement of litigation expenses totaling $167,727, agreeing to all of the requested expenses except for the $2,000 the firm asked for to pay its attorneys' travel expenses for the final approval hearing in the matter.  The judge also agreed to a proposed $25,000 incentive award for plaintiff Anton Agoshkov and to $1,000 incentive awards apiece for two other plaintiffs, Braden Van Der Wall and Steven Romanoff.

"The requested fees and expenses are within the range approved by this court in its preliminary approval of class settlement, and are therefore presumptively reasonable," Judge Lorenz said.  The judge noted that the fee reflected hourly fees of $850 to $1,025 for Levi Korsinsky partners and $350 to $650 for associates, and that the firm spent an estimated 3,937 hours working on the case.  The parties to the suit told Judge Lorenz they'd reached a settlement deal in June 2019 in a motion for preliminary approval that called the $13.85 million deal, which represents a 4.6% recovery of an estimated $300 million in damages, a "fair, reasonable, and adequate" outcome for the proposed class.