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NCAA Seeks Pause on $33M Fee Award in Antitrust Class Action

February 18, 2020 | Posted in : Expenses / Costs, Fee Award, Fee Award Factors, Fee Expert / Member, Fee Issues on Appeal, Fee Request, Lodestar, Practice Area: Class Action / Mass Tort / MDL, Prevailing Party Issues

A recent Law 360 story by Mike LaSusa, “NCAA Wants Timeout on $33M Bill in Student-Athlete Row,” reports that the NCAA has asked a California federal court to hold off enforcing a magistrate judge’s recommendation that the college athletic association pay $33 million in attorney fees and costs to student-athletes who won an injunction barring the NCAA from restricting their education-related compensation.  College football and basketball players who've challenged the NCAA's amateurism rules asked the court last week to enforce the magistrate judge's recommendation, pointing out that the NCAA hadn’t objected to it.

But the NCAA told the court that another ruling is expected soon in the case, which is on appeal at the Ninth Circuit, meaning “the question of whether plaintiffs are the ‘prevailing party’ entitled to recover their attorneys’ fees and costs remains unsettled.”  “It would therefore be premature to enter a final judgment adopting the magistrate judge’s recommendation and requiring defendants to pay plaintiffs’ requested attorneys’ fees and costs prior to the Ninth Circuit’s resolution of the parties’ appeals,” the NCAA said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins’ Dec. 23 recommendation called for the NCAA to pay the student-athletes $31.8 million in attorney fees and $1.4 million in costs, but declined to provide the attorneys with the full $45 million they requested.  Judge Cousins applied minor reductions to the student-athletes’ baseline bid for fees and costs and declined to apply their ask for another $15 million based on a 1.5 multiplier, requested in light of "the exceptional nature of the outcome."  Still, he said, while the students’ victory was “historic,” they didn’t get everything they asked for.