Fleury v. Richemont North America, Inc., C-05-4525 EMC, 2008 WL 3287154 (N. D. Cal. Aug. 6, 2008).
After the Northern District of California’s ruling on their application for attorney fees, maybe the class counsel for the settling plaintiffs should enlist Elton John’s help in encouraging the class members to use the “relief” afforded to them in the settlement in this lawsuit. It just might turn a dull and dreary mere $1.24 million attorney fee award into something more befitting royalty and Sheiks.
In Fleury v. Richemont North America, Inc., the class members had complained that “world renowned French jeweler and watchmaker” (ooh la la!) Cartier refused to sell Cartier watch parts to non-Cartier authorized watch dealers for use in servicing Cartier watches. The case was settled by an agreement for members of the consumer subclass to receive $100 credits for use with Cartier dealers. These credits formed the majority of the value of the settlement, which class counsel asserted to be worth at least $9,791,800. The opinion cited in this post addresses the settling plaintiffs’ request for an attorney fee award.
The request initially sought an award of fees based on a percentage of the total settlement value. The court demurred and asked for additional briefing on whether a fee award determination would be premature until it could assess the rate of redemption of the credits and other relief, because the settlement agreement established a coupon-like regime for class members.
The court cited CAFA’s limitation of fee awards: “[i]f a proposed settlement in a class action provides for a recovery of coupons to a class member, the portion of any attorney’s fee award to class counsel that is attributable to the award of the coupons shall be based on the value to class members of the coupons that are redeemed.”
Although CAFA does not define “coupon,” the court looked to CAFA’s legislative history (finally someone is looking at the history) suggesting “that a coupon is a discount on another product or service offered by the defendant in the lawsuit.” The court rejected the notion that the $100 credits should not be considered coupons because they could conceivably be used to buy entire products, astutely pointing out that “the reality is that most Cartier products cost significantly more than $100.”
In the end, the court determined that the lodestar method of determining fees was more appropriate than the percentage method. Under the lodestar method, a reasonable attorney’s fee is determined by the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate, subject to adjustment upwards or downwards based on a variety of factors, including the results obtained in the litigation. In response to the court’s suggestion that CAFA’s limitation on fee awards might still require it to delay ruling, even under the lodestar method, the settling plaintiffs suggested that the court could award the lodestar now and simply defer ruling on whether the settling plaintiffs were entitled to an adjustment upwards based on its evaluation of the results obtained. This would be determined by reviewing the number of consumer credits redeemed and how much the class members availed themselves of the other agreed relief.
Apparently not feeling rather weary about the case, the court invited the parties to return in six months with a report regarding the results obtained in terms of the numbers of credits redeemed and views on whether the fee award should be adjusted upwards by some multiplier based on results obtained.
So, class counsel, round up some of those class members, drive your roller up to Bond Street (or your local high end new urbanism lifestyle center) and get them to make your day by spending those credits at Cartier!
Here is a comment from someone who knows about this case:
I apreciated your article about Fleury V. Cartier. It is now over for the one who did not opt-out of the case.(Over 200opted-out). It may be of interest to you that Judge Chen even though stating a"relatively meager results" awarded Mr. Simon and Mr. Spellberg over $1.6million in fees. Such fees for a "relatively meager results"which consist of coupons for the consumer class,, one must wonder what would have been their fees if they would have recover anything for the watchmaker’s class?