Attorney Fees

Unhappy with 53 law firms participating in case, judge appoints special master to review legal bills

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A federal judge in California last week criticized two lawyers for bringing an additional 49 law firms into a data-breach case, raising to 53 the total number of firms representing the plaintiffs.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh said she planned to hire a special master to go through the billing records of 329 lawyers who submitted bills in the case against the insurance provider, Anthem Inc., over a 2015 cyberattack, the Recorder reports.

At last Thursday’s hearing, Koh told lawyers from Altschuler Berzon and Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll that she was “deeply disappointed,” according to the Recorder account.

Koh said she would never have appointed those firms to be lead counsel if she had known they were “going to pile on” so many law firms. “What made you think I wanted 53 firms churning on this case?” Koh asked.

The lawyers seeking payment included more than 100 partners and more than two dozen contract lawyers charging $300 to $400 an hour, Koh said. The lawyers had sought a total of about $38 million in fees out of a $115 million settlement fund.

Class-action critic Ted Frank of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Class Action Fairness had sought the special master. Koh granted the request in an order released a day after the court hearing, Bloomberg Law reports.

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