Today’s Tidbits

by Jason Barney on October 29, 2007

$600 per class member for defective brakes; $4.1M attorney fee claim

See this story via Law.com. No problem with consumers getting a few hundred dollars to offset the cost of a brake job. A healthy $5.6M verdict provides such remedy for over 9,000 class members. The rub? A $4.1M attorney fee claim, which according to my arithmetic is ten lawyer-years in work, at a respectable $200/hr. Oh, and check out the defendant attorney’s brilliant lawyering in his appeals brief, referring to the trial judge as the “Red Queen” from Alice in Wonderland. It wouldn’t be so bad had the appeals court not remanded the attorney fee issue back to that very trial judge.

Mean-spirited protest of funeral for fallen United States Marine prompts suit

The story is here. That anyone would express their protest in this manner is truly shameful. Update: $10.9M verdict!

Law says wife is husband’s property

Slighted spouse sues his wife’s lover for “alienation of affection.” Law says wife is a man’s “property.” Story via ABC.com.

{ 9 comments }

1 yoshi 10.30.07 at 12:06 am

That anyone would express their protest in this manner is truly shameful.

Are you saying you’ve never heard of the Westboro Baptist church? And are you saying that the lawsuit is valid?

The Westboro Baptist church picketed my old high school for having “pink zones”, they picket every fallen soldiers funeral they can, hell, they picketed the Minneapolis after it collapsed. States have passed laws preventing or limiting protests at funerals based on these picketers (completely unconstitutional in my opinion). Honestly where have you been?

Its time to just ignore them instead of pandering to their every press release and “protest”.

2 Jason Barney 10.30.07 at 12:27 am

No, I never have heard of Westboro Baptist Church. But, I don’t entirely understand your point.

I am not so sure the suit is necessarily valid, but it has my sympathy as the son of a veteran–and I personally spent ten years in the reserve component of the military; so, I have problems with others disrupting the funeral of a United States Marine.

Just because a post a story about a lawsuit does not necessarily mean I agree, or disagree with it.

Where have I been? Not in Minneapolis, I suppose. But, I don’t think I am as out of touch as you suggest.

Perhaps my post brought more attention to their shameful cause, and if that is your point, I am sorry.

3 Brian P. 10.30.07 at 12:33 am

Yoshi,

Despite not being asked to, I’m going to come to Jason’s defense on this one. Despite the fact the site generally highlights claims with no merit, Walter and Ted often note in their posts that they bring a suit to their readers’ attention not because they necessarily disagree with the merits but because it is a good example of another, more inconspicuous, flaw in the legal system; or even because it might just spur an interesting discussion on the matter.

That said, I agree wholeheartedly with both of you. It is truly shameful; and they should just be ignored.

4 TC 10.30.07 at 5:10 am

“and they should just be ignored.”

Actually they should have quick obits prepared for themselves!!

And Women need to understand that when they take an alternate lover, seed child with such that HE NOW becomes part of the divorce process! Sad though it may be, the court should have given the [edited] man one half of the [edited] assets!

Why?

Well the woman would soon learn how fast a 22 million empore can be taken to an 11 million empore, and that when in turn she decides to make it a 5.5 million empire of her own…. oh well, one man can only earn so much right?

Oh well, the Redford movie was great entertainment, but fer sure aint up to the possible legal commitments that such a night might create, eh?

As to the first story? I’m amazed that the tire store so much as had to inform the class of the decision. No doubt that EXPENSE was put totally upon them.

Once again the lawyers should get a few thousand total! The so called damaged should always get over 80% of ANY settlement!

5 Ted 10.30.07 at 6:51 am

Jason actually understates the problems with the Kia class action: the court awarded damages classwide even though many class members had no problems with their brakes or already had their brakes fixed and replaced by Kia at no charge. It was a procedural abuse of the class action mechanism, and a violation of due process, and the appellate court disregarded it.

6 Jay Wilson 10.30.07 at 12:44 pm

It bothers me when folks think that Plaintiffs’ attorneys should be compensated at a “respectable $200/hr,” when defense counsel is compensated to the tune of $500+/hr. I would guess that no trial counsel at DLA Piper charges a “respectable $200/hr.” Further, courts have consistently held that when calculating a class counsel fee award the risk of litigation requires some additional compensation. Defense counsel gets paid–win, lose or settle; whereas class counsel gets paid only upon winning or settling.

Finally, Piper did its client a great disservice by casting the trial court in such a light. Courts of appeal tend not to take the mockery of trial judges lightly (even if they deserve it).

7 Jason Barney 10.30.07 at 9:47 pm

Defense counsel made $500/hr? I may have missed that. So, okay it’s four lawyer-years of work if (big if, I say) you assume the same generous rate. That’s eight hours a day, five days a weeks, year round–with no lunch breaks–no holidays, sick or vacation time. And, that’s a senior partner rate, people–no delegating legal research and brief writing to an associate and then claiming the senior partner did it, thank you.

And, the fee claim is over 70% of the recovery. So much for 1/3 contingency, if you can make out like a champ with an hourly claim. No wonder the appellate court asked for a better explanation.

And, don’t forget (a lament often posted on this site) that the defendant pays both fees (plaintiff and defendant) in this instance–a conceivable $4.1M x 2 = $8.2M, but if they won they would still be out their own $4.1M defense costs.

The attorneys claim over $8M and consumers get $600/each for their crappy brakes? It’s entirely lopsided, and yes, Overlawyered.

8 Jay Wilson 10.31.07 at 8:47 am

Your original article stated that the attorneys were seeking a $4.1MM fee award; six posts later, the claim has inflated to $8MM. Further, comparing the incorrect $8MM number to the individual class member recovery of $600 is disingenuous. You should be comparing a $4.1MM recovery to the true class recovery ($600 x over 9,000 class members). I thought this case was brought pursuant to the Pennsylvania Consumer Fraud Act, which allows for attorneys’ fees *in addition* to the class recovery. However, please correct me if I am mistaken.

Your point that the defendants would have still been out their defense costs had they won is a non sequitor. They lost. Why in the world would a losing party not have to pay its own attorneys’ fees? KIA could have sttled the case early and avoided whatever they got charged by Piper.

Your time-frame also assumes that one lawyer is working on the trial. I assume you have tried a case to a jury before, and understand the incredible amount of time it takes, expecially when the case is being tried on a class wide basis. In the typical class case, both sides will have an entire team of attorneys pulling 80 hour weeks for trial prep (often longer during trial). It takes more than one lawyer to try a complex class action. How long was this trial? My guess is that it wasn’t a two day trial.

We recently came across this very issue in a class settlement. Defendants complained that our time was “ridiculous.” When the Court finally ordered production of the defense billing statements, they had poured more time into the case than we had.

9 Jason Barney 10.31.07 at 1:35 pm

Jay, thanks for your continued comments. The $8.2M fee was because the defendant is stuck with paying both sets of fees, plaintiff and defendant. I doubled the $4.1M figure because if for sake of argument you assume $4.1M is okay to pursue a claim, $4.1 might be okay too to defend it. The complexity of litigation and time involved are roughly equal for both sides.

I’ll take your word that the Pennsylvania Consumer Fraud Act allows for attorney fees in addition to the award, but would suspect that fee-shifting work only one way: for the plaintiffs’ benefit. This dovetails into your next point when you succinctly point out that why should not KIA pay its own fees since they lost. Well, okay, fair enough. But if they would have won they still would have paid their own fees. Is that fair?

However you slice it, at $500/hr, it’s about 8,000 hours of work to justify a fee claim of $4.1M. Whether the attorney works non-stop for four years, or on and off for four years and gangbusters up to and including trial. It seems like a lot to me, and the appellate court probably also thought it needed a second look. I know that sometimes when you peel back the layers of an onion so to speak, what at first appears unreasonable is not so much. Maybe that is the case here. But it’s still $4.1M, and that’s a lot of money.

And, I am not so sure I am being disingenuous by stating the claim was $600/member. The third sentence of my original post said “…$5.6M verdict” preceded by “No problem with…” So, I’m not picking on consumers here who got a raw deal on their brakes (and Ted Frank thinks I’m understating the problem because many class members had other remedies taken or available.) I’m casting $8.2M in fees (yes, an estimate) in light of a $5.6M recovery.

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