Category Archives Attorneys’ Fees

In a very meta turn, Riceland Foods, Inc. found itself on the receiving end of a class action composed of class action firms and plaintiffs from the GMO Rice MDL overseen by Judge Catherine D. Perry of the USDC of the Eastern District of Missouri.  Riceland had been a co-defendant along with defendant Bayer in that litigation and had then cross-claimed Bayer and settled for $ 92 million.  Following the District Court’s orders awarding common benefit expenses and fees, three law firms that had incurred legal fees and expenses while performing class benefit work sought to certify a class representing not only other law firms but also clients who had paid for common benefit services and expenses.  The proposed class brought claims of unjust enrichment and quantum meruit against Riceland on the basis that Riceland had benefitted from the putative class’s common benefit work in obtaining a judgment against Bayer,…

We have written a few posts about the challenges inherent in obtaining judicial approval of proposed class settlements here at the Missouri and Kansas Class Action Law Blog, and this latest order issued by Judge Kays denying a proposed hybrid wage-and-hour settlement outlines many of those concerns that counsel should be mindful of when negotiating and finalizing a proposed class settlement that will pass judicial scrutiny. (HT to our former colleague Eric Dirks who tipped us off about this order earlier this week - look for a guest post from him in the coming weeks). In Stewart v. USA Tank Sales and Erection Co., No. 12-05136-CV-SW-DGK, 2014 WL 836212 (W.D. Mo. March 4, 2014), the plaintiffs brought a seemingly straight-forward wage-and-hour claim, alleging that their employer failed to pay them overtime; the wrinkle being that it was a "hybrid" class where plaintiffs bring a claim under both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act…

Judge Vratil's order in Gambrell v. Weber Carpet, Inc., 2013 WL 1659591 (D. Kan. April 17, 2013), stands in stark contrast to the Missouri Supreme Court's recent analysis on class counsel fees. In this case, Judge Vratil ultimately approved an award of fees to class counsel in this FLSA settlement, but did so in a manner likely to haunt class counsel for years. The Court had overruled the parties' first motion to approve the proposed FLSA settlement because the parties had submitted it in camera. The Court overruled the second attempt at approval for failing to provide sufficient information needed to support the key findings (such as whether the proposed settlement was fair, reasonable and adequate). At this point, class counsel was undeterred by the Court's stated skepticism of their request for $40,375.00 in fees for a $14,000 settlement. The third attempt at approval failed for lack of supporting information…

In Berry v. Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., 2013 WL 1421604 (Mo., April 13, 2013), the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed an award of $6,174,640.00 in class counsel fees where the class recovered a grand total of $125,261.00. Because our firm submitted an amicus brief in this case, we will keep the report of this decision factual. That case involved an MMPA class settlement for allegedly defective window regulators, resulting in the settlement of a 22,304 member class eligible for payments of $75.00 each. But after notice was mailed out the class members, only 177 claims were made and only 130 paid. Class counsel submitted a bill for 7,910 hours billed at rates ranging from $200 for staff to between $252-$650/hour for counsel, calculated the lodestar at $3,087,320.00, and asked for a 2.6 multiplier. The trial court limited the multiplier to 2.0, resulting in $6,174,640.00 in fees, plus costs. Volkswagen appealed.…

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