Volkswagen accuses Hagens Berman lawyer of double counting his hours
Volkswagen contends that a lawyer with Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro double counted his billable hours in litigation over vehicle emissions.
In a March 9 preliminary fee objection (PDF), Volkswagen targeted $1.5 million in lodestar billings by lawyer Steve Berman, Law.com (sub. req.) reports. Volkswagen contends that Berman submitted the same hours in separate settlements with car dealers and consumers over software designed to mislead emissions tests, then decided to shift the hours solely to the dealer litigation.
Volkswagen has said it had agreed to pay $175 million in attorney fees and expenses in the consumer case based on the belief that it compensated the plaintiffs’ steering committee members for all their work in emissions litigation involving 2.0-liter diesel engines.
Berman told Law.com in an email that Volkswagen’s objection is based on an erroneous assumption that the fee requests are based on law firm billing records, rather than a percentage of the dealer settlement fund, which is expected to exceed $1.3 billion.
Hagens Berman had included the $1.5 million in fees in a lodestar estimate of about $3.5 million, supporting its $28.6 million fee request in the dealer litigation. In a supplemental filing, Berman had said the $1.5 million represented “hybrid time” spent on the consumer and dealership cases. But his firm was removing the hybrid time from the consumer case to remove even the appearance of double counting.
“Volkswagen is unaware of any law that would allow counsel to call work done for one case ‘hybrid,’ submit time for that work in a fee application for that case, and then later, when convenient, move that time to another fee application in a different case brought on behalf of different clients,” Volkswagen said in its objection.