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Law Firms Earn Another $10.8M in Fees in GM Ignition MDL

December 16, 2021 | Posted in : Expenses / Costs, Fee Allocation / Fee Apportionment, Fee Award, Fee Fund, Fees & Common Fund, Lodestar, Practice Area: Class Action / Mass Tort / MDL, Supplemental Fees

A recent Law360 story by Rick Archer, “GM Ignition MDL Firms Get OK for Another $10.8M in Fees,” reports that counsel for plaintiffs in the General Motors multidistrict ignition switch litigation will be receiving an additional $10.8 million after telling a New York federal judge that a $34 million fee award earlier this year left them not even close to fully reimbursed.  U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman signed the order authorizing the payments in response to a motion from the MDL's three co-lead firms – Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, Hilliard Martinez Gonzales LLP, and Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP – requesting unused funds from an MDL legal expenses pool be used to supplement the earlier fees and expenses reward.

"To reiterate, even with these reimbursements, co-lead counsel, like participating counsel, will not have recovered anything close to their lodestar," they said in their motion.  In May, Judge Furman approved the payment of $34 million in fees and expenses to 53 firms involved in the case, but earlier this month the three co-leads said in a motion that the payments did not fully cover their share of the case's lodestar and that some participating firms had received no funds from the order.

The firms proposed and Judge Furman agreed that they be paid out of unused cash in the "common benefit order fund" established among the MDL participants to pool the proceeds of individual personal injury settlements from ignition switch cases and use them to reimburse work done for the common benefit of all the MDL plaintiffs.  "At present, co-lead counsel do not anticipate substantial future payments into the CBF, and therefore seek compensation at this time for their firms and participating counsel firms for the many thousands of hours dedicated to this litigation over the last seven years," they said.

Just under $9.2 million of the payments are slated for the lead firms.  The remaining funds will be split between 16 additional firms, in amounts ranging from more than $603,000 to $61.43.  In his order, Judge Furman said the firms had "far more" than this amount in unreimbursed fees.