Posted Apr 24, 2009 05:55 pm CDT
The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the $49 million settlement in an antitrust class action with BAR/BRI parent company West Publishing Corp, but sent the case back to district court to re-evaluate attorney fees.
During the 2007 case, it came out that lawyers for five of the seven class members had agreements to apply for incentive awards for them relative to the amount of the total settlement. The payments would have been $10,000 each if the settlement were at least $500,000, and increased incrementally if the settlement reached $1.5 million, $5 million or $10 million—at which point there was a cap, the National Law Journal reported.
“Which means that you’re engaging in settlement negotiations … and the class reps might say, ‘Who cares, we got our max, what difference does it make,’” J. Darrell Palmer, a Solana Beach, Calif., attorney, told the National Law Journal. He represents six plaintiffs who objected to the settlement on those grounds.
At the district court level, Judge Manuel Real refused to approve the incentive payments in part on the basis of objections he heard from Palmer and other lawyers. However, he also did not award Palmer and the others any attorney fees.
“This seems clearly erroneous to us,” Judge Pamela Rymer wrote for the majority. “The court was not focused on the incentive agreements before the objectors took exception to them after the motion to award payments to the class representatives was filed.”
The 9th Circuit also ordered the district court to reconsider these fees and as well as the more than $12 million McGuireWoods was awarded, the National Law Journal reported.