We thank our friends at NALFA for bringing two cases of interest, although outside of California, to our attention.
Massachusetts Compensated Plaintiff’s In-House Counsel in Unfair Business Practices Case.
In Holland v. Jachmann, 85 Mass.App.Ct. 292, 2014 WL 1887534 (May 14, 2014), a Massachusetts appellate court decided that a corporate plaintiff’s in-house counsel was entitled to fee compensation, to be paid by the losing side, for successfully assisting plaintiff under Massachusetts’ unfair business practices fee-shifting statute. It found that in-house fees were just as “incurred” as fees paid/owed by a company to outside counsel.
BLOG UNDERVIEW—CALIFORNIA LAW: In-house counsel work does get compensated also. (PLCM Group, Inc. v. Drexler, 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1094 (2000) [Civ. Code § 1717 permits award of fees for in-house counsel work, measured by the prevailing market value in the community for comparable legal services].)
Eight Circuit Court of Appeals Considers Number of Class Action Fee Issues.
In re Genetically Modified Rice Litig., Nos. 12-3950/12-4045 (8th Cir. Aug. 22, 2104) involved an appeal by non-lead counsel for some plaintiffs in a series of cases, which were MDL consolidated in a Missouri federal venue class action, for claims brought by rice farmers/others against Bayer CropScience LLP for allegedly tainting the rice supply with genetically modified rice. Here is what was challenged and here are the rulings on appeal:
1. Plaintiffs challenged the requirement that each of them contribute 8% of recoveries as payments of fees to class counsel and 3% to litigation costs and expenses, with these recovery divisions being found reasonable in nature;
2. One firm (non-lead counsel) claimed entitlement to $13.3 million more under unjust enrichment principles based on certain conduct, but the appellate court found the conduct was not deserving of extra compensation because the firm was not lead counsel and any other holding might encourage firms to take independent actions which might undermine class action leadership firm structuring traditionally seen in MDL cases;
3. The fee and costs awards were not excessive, sustaining $51.6 million in fees awarded to class counsel and $5.5 million in costs/expenses; and
4. The district judge did not err by ruling class counsel could be entitled up to $72 million in total fees depending on the common fund residuals after initial payouts, finding that figure was 8.4% of the recovery and well within the range of recoveries found reasonable under the case law and a 2009 Rubenstein study of class action settlements.