Where counsel for two objectors to a putative class action settlement sought to recover $237,500 in attorney’s fees, but they obtained only a modest result, their conduct delayed relief to the class and they impermissibly block billed for their time, they were awarded $80,000 in fees.
Plaintiffs filed a putative class action complaint against Genworth Life Insurance Company and Genworth Life Insurance Company of New York, alleging that defendants failed to disclose material information to long-term care policyholders, to their detriment. The parties then reached a settlement which the court preliminarily approved.
Lonny and Carrol Lang thereafter filed objections to the proposed settlement. That resulted in certain enhancements to the special election options in the amended settlement agreement. On Dec. 13, 2022, during the final hearing, counsel for the Langs renewed their objection to the class counsel’s attorneys’ fees, arguing that more specificity was needed respecting the lodestar calculation. The court thereafter overruled this objection. Now before the court is the Langs’ motion for $237,500 in attorney’s fees and incentive payments of $7,500 each.
Based on the record before the court, it cannot be said that the Langs’ counsel’s request of $237,500 in attorneys’ fees is reasonable. To begin, counsel block billed the 317.5 hours, so the court cannot determine whether counsel spent a reasonable amount of time litigating the Langs’ objection or whether counsel impermissibly charged more hours than necessary.
Second, the Langs’ objection relating to the agreement reached with the parties had already been overruled, so continuing to negotiate an agreement delayed implementing the relief for the class. Finally, the settlement was for a relatively small amount, so the award of all attorneys’ fees requested is not warranted because the fee request is for securing a modest result.
Nonetheless, notwithstanding the lack of merit to the objections, the delay and the modest relief obtained, the Langs’ counsel is entitled to a reasonable fee. Having reviewed, and heard argument on, the Langs’ objections, having taken into account the results secured and having considered all other applicable factors, the court concludes that a reasonable fee to compensate counsel for the results obtained is $80,000.
The court awarded a $7,500 incentive payment to each of the earlier settlement objectors who reached an agreement before their objections were overruled. The Langs request the same incentive payment to compensate them for standing up on behalf of the class, “refusing to agree to the initial settlement offer, and [expending] time to achieve” the improvements to the settlement.
The Langs did expend time and energy helping counsel achieve an agreement with the parties. However, their objections lacked merit, the results obtained were modest and the record does not establish why a $7,500 service award would be warranted. Accordingly, the court will award an incentive payment of $3,750 to each of the Langs.
Langs’ fees motion granted in part, denied in part.
Haney v. Genworth Life Insurance Co., Case No. 3:22-cv-55, Feb. 15, 2023. EDVA at Richmond (Payne). VLW 023-3-065. 24 pp.