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Case Brief

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Attorneys for prevailing plaintiffs in complex class action litigation brought petitions for attorney fees awards. The District Court, Sarokin, Circuit Judge, sitting by designation, held that: (1) notes from telephone conversation outlining conditions of representation did not prove that conditions were understood and accepted by attorney to support clients' claim that attorney agreed not to seek compensation based on percentage of recovery; (2) terms of alleged agreement would not be enforced under estoppel theory; (3) settlement achieved in litigation extinguished any liability defendants might have had under statutes for plaintiffs' attorney fees, converting litigation into common fund case; (4) lodestar may be enhanced in common fund case; (5) public interest attorneys would be compensated using average of hourly fees for each year charged by lead attorneys and associates in case; (6) interest on award before settlement would be figured according to prime interest rate at time, compounded annually; (7) fee petition time would not be included in award; (8) some enhancement for risk was appropriate; (9) lodestar would not be enhanced based on quality of attorneys' skills; but (10) multiplier of 1.5 would be used on grounds of exceptional results obtained in common fund case. So ordered.


United States District Court, D. New Jersey




Roslyn Litman, Litman Litman Harris and Brown, P.C., Pittsburgh, PA. John Jacobs, Plotkin & Jacobs, Ltd., Chicago, IL. Altshuler, Berzon, Nussbaum, Berzon & Rubin, San Francisco, CA. Prof. George L. Priest, Sp. Master, Yale Law School, New Haven, CT.

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