April 16, 2008

Plaintiffs' Attorneys Win $218 Million Fee Award for Helping Obtain a Punitive Damages Verdict that Was Reversed on Appeal

Law.com has this story today about a $218 million fee award to two plaintiffs' lawyers for their work on a now defunct tobacco class action. If I'm reading this story correctly, the attorneys received these fees for laying the groundwork for the Engle class action litigation in Florida, which resulted in a whopping $145 billion verdict against tobacco manufacturers. The Florida Supreme Court threw out that award on appeal, but apparently the trial court has awarded fees to the plaintiffs' attorneys out of a fund that the defendants deposited in lieu of an appeal bond.

The trial court accepted the representation of plaintiffs' counsel that they had worked an average of 77 hours a week on the case. Said the court: "These are reasonable and conservative hours."

$218 million for losing a case? I certainly don't know the whole story behind this litigation, but that doesn't seem quite right to me.