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NALFA: Without Qualfied Fee Expert, NCAA Loses $46M Fee Challenge

July 14, 2015 | Posted in : Expenses / Costs, Fee Award, Fee Award Factors, Fee Dispute, Fee Expert / Member, Fee Reduction, Fee Request, Lawyering, NALFA News

A recent CBS Sports story, “NCAA Ordered to Pay $46 Million in Ed O’Bannon Legal Fees,” reports that a federal magistrate judge ordered the NCAA to pay nearly $46 million to Ed O’Bannon’s lawyers in attorney fees and costs for their court victory.  The NCAA had been seeking an approximate $8.5 million reduction in the fee request.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanel Cousins awarded the O’Bannon lawyers $44.4 million in attorney fees, a reduction of almost $1.2 million from what they requested.  The NCAA was also ordered to pay $1.5 million in costs and expenses, down $3.7 million from what the plaintiffs sought.  At one time, O’Bannon’s lawyers – led by Michael Hausfeld – had been asking for $50.9 million.

Last August, a federal judge ruled that the NCAA violated antitrust law by preventing football and men’s basketball players from being paid for use of their names, images and likenesses.  The NCAA had appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which has yet to issue an opinion. The appellate court’s decision could impact the attorney fee award.

In the order, Cousins wrote that the NCAA has tried to “downplay” the O’Bannon lawyers’ success and said they were “vindicated” on their main claim that the NCAA violated antitrust law by its restrictions.  “This win against a behemoth of an institution like the NCAA could significantly change American college sports; in particular, the way the NCAA treats its student-athlete,” Cousins wrote.

In trying to reduce the O’Bannon fee request, the NCAA lawyers relied on an in-house  ad hoc fee challenge, instead of the work of a qualified fee expert.  “A fee challenge that came from a qualified fee expert would have been more credible in court,” said Terry Jesse, Executive Director of NALFA.

NALFA also reported on this case in “Hausfeld Survives Fee Challenge from NCAA”