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Judge Reduces Attorneys’ Fees by 62% in Laptop Class Action

In a recent class action involving Acer notebook computers, a Northern California federal judge cut “the attorneys’ fees award sought by plaintiffs’ lawyers from the requested $2,542,246 to $943,217.” Acer was accused of selling computers that “ran slowly and crashed often because they lacked enough memory to support the pre-loaded operating system.”

Judge Jeffrey White slashed the fees after finding that the three firms lacked efficiency and spent excessive time on tasks. He said the firms spent “547 hours on attorney meetings and 184 hours on court appearances, ‘despite the fact that the court vacated all hearings,’ except for the hearing on final settlement approval and attorneys fees.” He also found that there was substantial duplicate work done by the firms, ultimately concluding that “only 1,750 hours of the 4,633 hours tallied . . . were reasonable under the circumstances.”

Additionally, Judge White reduced the hourly billing rates sought by the three firms since none of them provided relevant market rates in Northern California. Instead they had provided the hourly billing rates for Los Angeles, Ohio, and Washington D.C. Thus, he set the rates for “paralegals, associates, partners and senior partners at $175, $350, $500, and $550 respectively.”

The firms attempted to justify their fees by arguing that the case was complex, but Judge White did not agree. He said, “The Court notes that while the facts underlying the plaintiffs’ claims were technically complicated, the legal analysis regarding their warranty and misrepresentation claims was not complex.”

The court granted “$171,769 of the $172,753 in costs sought by the three firms, but decreased the incentive payments for the named plaintiffs from $5,000 to $2,000 each.” In doing so, Judge White noted that there was no evidence showing that the named plaintiffs undertook “any great risk to either their finances or their reputation in bringing this action.”

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