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NALFA Submits Amicus Brief to California Supreme Court

March 10, 2010 | Posted in : Fee Award, Fee Award Factors, Fee Issues on Appeal, Fee Jurisprudence, NALFA News, Prevailing Party Issues

Acting on behalf of the attorney fee practice and in the interests of attorney fee jurisprudence, NALFA has filed an amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court of California in support of the petition for review in Pipefitters v. Oakley.  The brief, written by NALFA panelist Aashish Y. Desai of Mower, Carreon & Desai, LLP in Irvine, California, expresses concern that the Courts of Appeal are conflating two distinct theories for awarding attorney fees.  Desai writes that the decision to require pre-suit settlement notification to receive attorney fees to the substantial benefit doctrine “would come as quite a surprise to most class action fee experts and would render this Court’s decision in Vasquez v. State of California, 45 Cal.4th 243, 247 (2008) pointless.” 

Desai continues, “In California, the substantial benefit doctrine was ratified and recognized as “well established” by this Court’s analysis in Serrano v. Priest, 20 Cal.3d 25, 38 (1977).  While the private attorney’s general exception may be implicated by the common benefit rationale, it is not the same.  For example, there is no requirement that the attorney’s fees under the substantial benefit doctrine come from a separate fund, nor is there a requirement that the plaintiffs prove that they prevailed in the underlying lawsuit.  The substantial benefit theory is simply rooted on the equitable notion that if you benefit based upon someone else’s hard work, you should have to share in the costs and expense of the labor – no free riders.  This is where Oakley goes wrong.”

The Petition for Review was written by Kevin K. Green of Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins, LLP.