May 1, 2009
Plaintiffs' Attorneys Feuding Over Fees
Judge Faith Hochberg of the District of New Jersey urged plaintiffs' lawyers to cooperate and coordinate discovery rather than devolve into a feeding frenzy for attorneys' fees. The case isn't a mass tort; rather, it is a putative health insurance class action involving Aetna, Cigna, Oxford, WellPoint and Horizon Blue Cross of New Jersey for underpaid out-of-network claims. Still, it demonstrates that judges continue to exercise significant oversight over multi-district litigation even before certification. To the extent that issue reaches attorneys' fees, Charlie Silver and Geoffrey Miller have an interesting paper on the court's authority to control the fee issue absent certification. It is titled, "The Quasi-Class Action Method of Managing Multidistrict Litigations: Problems and a Proposal."
"I wasn't born yesterday," the judge said at an April 7 status conference in Newark attended by almost two dozen plaintiffs lawyers. "I understand everybody's interest in this room, and I'm not going to tolerate this becoming an attorney feeding frenzy for fees. My overriding principle will be to get this settled reasonably early, fairly, with the vast bulk of the proceeds going to the policyholders, not the attorneys."
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