Monday, October 4, 2010

Northern California Judges rule in Attorney Fee cases

This blog uses the Copyright Blob in Attorney Fee
cases.   Image Courtesy of Univ. of New South Wales

Alvardo v. McCoy is the progeny of a Title VII case where the plaintiffs prevailed in a post-trial settlement.  They obtained new counsel for the Ninth Circuit appealed and current counsel filed a declaratory judgment action to determine what McCoy and the other trial attorneys should receive.

The retainer agreement specifies a contingency fee for pretrial settlement or jury verdict but contains no provision for post-trial settlement.  "Plaintiffs then argue – in a leap of unexplained logic – that based on this interpretation of the fee agreements, the Court should hold that the parties have fully discharged their obligations under the fee agreements,"  giving the defendants nothing except statutory fees.  Judge Susan Illston noted that two fee agreements existed, for one group of plaintiffs, there was a settlement provision of 1/3 of the recovery, the post-trial settlement would count as a settlement for the purpose of that part of the agreement.  As to the plaintiffs going to trial, the judge relegated recovery to statutory attorneys fees.

In Bonner v. Redwood Mortgage Corp., the plaintiff (an attorney pro se) sued the mortgage company for a plethora of statutory violations (including some not based on California or Federal Law).  He lost and the mortgage company moved for attorneys' fees.  Judge William Alsup appointed Bradley Bening to figure out what attorneys fees Mr. Bonner owed.  He came to a figure of $70,000 with $3,000 for his own time to figure this out.  Judge William Alsup reduced the figure by the amount necessary to remove the action to federal court and by insurance costs and then affirmed the award and charged Mr. Bonner with the special master's fee.

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