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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Attorneys’ Fee Awards in Mass Tort Litigation

Some recent attorneys’ fees awards illustrate that specialized mass tort litigation is becoming ever more entrepreneurial and rewarding when claims succeed in areas such as product liability litigation. Much of the history of the financing of contingent fee claims is very well explained by Professor Stephen C. Yeazell of UCLA in his 2001 article, “ReFinancing Civil Litigation,” 51 DePaul Law Review 183 (2001). I highly recommend the article to anyone interested in understanding the economics of mass tort litigation. The article was part of a DePaul Law School symposium DePaul Law School symposium organized through a $ 1 million gift from Robert Clifford, one of Chicago’s most-respected plaintiff’s lawyers.

The recent examples? “Fen-phen” litigation produced a most recent award of $ 412 million fee award for several plaintiff’s firms. The Point of Law authors note that all of the awards work out to about $1,000 per hour based on hours reported to have been billed. The Mass Tort Litigation blog authors also noted the award and provide cites for some of the key rulings in that litigation.

The Florida phase of the tobacco litigation recently produced a $ 218 million fee award for plaintiff’s counsel. The award is described as providing a 5x multiplier for the risks undertaken by plaintiff’s counsel, Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt. According to the news article, the trial judge who awarded the fees took pains to praise the efforts of plaintiff’s counsel, saying:

”I think this is one shining example of an effort that was undertaken with diligence and for an amount of time that would have destroyed most people,” Miller said, according to a hearing transcript. The Rosenblatts’ performance is “an example of the kind of lawyering that is done here in South Florida.”

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