Hagens Berman fee award in antitrust case fails again at 9th Circuit

The United States Court of Appeals James R. Browning building, home of the 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals, is pictured in San Francisco, California February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Noah Berger

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  • A split 9th Circuit panel released a $31 million award
  • Objector to charges in price-fixing dispute argues court used wrong starting point

(Reuters) – A divided U.S. appeals court on Monday dealt yet another blow to Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro in a long-running antitrust case, ordering a resumption under a bid by the plaintiffs’ law firm seeking relief. tens of millions of dollars in legal fees. .

The 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, ruled 2-1, says a federal trial judge used the wrong base dollar amount to calculate costs when he awarded Hagens Berman more than $31 million last year for his work in a lawsuit over alleged price-fixing of certain optical disc players.

The panel identified a lower starting point of several million dollars and said a final award of $26,646,000 would not be out of bounds.

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Seattle-based Hagens Berman represented U.S. consumers in a $205 million settlement involving claims against companies including Hitachi Ltd, LG Electronics Inc and Sony Corp. The plaintiffs purchased computers with an optical disc drive, which includes a DVD drive. The defendant companies denied any liability.

Monday’s decision was the latest strike against fees in the case spanning more than a decade.

The appeals court previously overturned trial court decisions awarding more than $52.7 million in costs. In a 2020 decision, panel judges found an error in the starting basis for awarding costs.

Hagens Berman’s partner Shana Scarlett, who argued for the company at the 9th Circuit in April, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Robert Clore of Corpus Christi, Texas-based law firm Bandas, which represented an opponent of the appeal, also did not immediately return a similar message.

Clore argued to the 9th Circuit that Hagens Berman’s original fee proposal used marginal rates, not flat rates. Circuit Judges Ronald Gould and Carlos Bea said U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco should have used marginal rates as the basis for awarding fees.

During oral argument, Hagens Berman’s Scarlett defended Seeborg, saying he “considered the totality” of the case to determine the charges. Seeborg said in its July 2021 order that the $31 million award was “reasonable in all the circumstances” regardless of the calculation of the starting point.

In a dissent, Circuit Judge Morgan Christen said Seeborg “is in the best position to decide on a reasonable fee award in this case.” She backed the $31 million prize.

The appeals committee rejected several other claims by Clore, including an offer to reimburse costs based on alleged breaches of attorney ethics rules.

The case is In Re Optical Disk Drive Products Antitrust Litigation, US District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:10-md-02413.

For the Indirect Buyer Category: Shana Scarlett of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro

For Conner Erwin, opponent: Robert Clore of the law firm Bandas

Read more:

Plaintiffs’ law firms seek $20 million in legal fees in ATM antitrust case

Class attorneys in App Store deal will seek up to $30 million in fees

Hagens Berman wins $31 million award in record player antitrust fight

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