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.