HP Inkjet Printer Litigation: Fee Award Fails to Comply With Provisions of the Class Action Fairness Act
In In re: HP Inkjet Printer Litigation, 2013 DJDAR 6149 (2013) the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the approval of an attorney's fee award. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the fee award did not comply with the provisions of the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). Specifically, the Ninth Circuit found that the district court awarded fees that were “attributable” to the coupon relief offered in the settlement, but failed to first calculate the redemption value of the coupons as required by applicable law.
Plaintiffs filed three class actions alleging that HP engaged in unfair business practices relating to the use of ink cartridges. HP reached a settlement with the consumers, who purchased inkjet printers. The district court approved the settlement, which provided for coupons for the class members as well as injunctive relief. In addition, the district court approved an award of attorney fees of $1.5 million and a significant award of costs.
The district court reviewed the fee request and awarded lodestar fees based on its conclusion that the settlement value to the class was $1.5 million. Recognizing that it would be improper to award fees that were higher than the class benefit, the court ordered HP to pay a reduced lodestar of $1.5 million down from a potential of $7 million in fees. Two class members objected, contending the reduced fee award still violated the provisions of CAFA.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the lower court’s decision on fees. The Ninth Circuit noted that under CAFA, when a settlement provides for coupon relief, the court must first calculate the redemption value of the coupon, as a prerequisite to considering the claim for attorney fees. As such, the Ninth Circuit concluded that under the provisions of CAFA, the district court was required to first calculate the redemption value of the e-credits in making its determination of attorney fees.
Because the record did not reflect such an analysis, the Ninth Circuit remanded the case to the District Court to make a determination consistent with the required analysis under CAFA.