Fees Awarded in iPhone Death Grip Case
(CN) - Apple owes $2.1 million to lawyers who won at least 100 times that for consumers unhappy with iPhone 4 antenna defects, a federal judge ruled.
Twenty-three firms represented the consumers in a consolidated class action over 4G iPhones that lost cellular service when users held them by the bottom left corner of the device.
Facing claims that it rushed the iPhone 4 to market in 2010 despite a flaw in the device's signal meter, Apple agreed to $15 apiece to millions of class members. Depending on the number of class members who bought multiple phones, Apple is expected to pay at least $235.5 million in claims under the settlement, which U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte approved in February.
The deal also requires Apple to extend and honor "bumper" accessory requests for 18 months after discontinuation of the gadget. A bumper, or exterior rubber case, remedies the phone's reception issues.
As of June 29, approximately 44,000 class members had filed claims for monetary recovery, 94 potential class members had opted out of the settlement, and 21 class members had filed objections.
Class counsel requested for $5.9 million in attorneys' fees, the maximum figure Apple agreed not to challenge in the settlement.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte in San Jose, Calif., found that the lawyers should collect less than their "very generous" calculation.
The requested amount "includes the time of a multitude of attorneys (more than necessary to efficiently handle the case) at high-end rates and based upon what appear to be liberally-kept time records," Whyte wrote Friday. "Second, the action involved no motion practice. In addition, while counsel brought this action on a contingent basis, thus incurring the risk of non-payment, the large number of firms competing to represent plaintiffs suggests that such a risk was relatively low."
Whyte's nine-page decision also grants final settlement approval.
"The Ninth Circuit has cautioned that 'settlement is the offspring of compromise; the question we address is not whether the final product could be prettier, smarter or snazzier, but whether it is fair, adequate and free from collusion,'" he wrote. "Furthermore, if any objector believed that 'his or her personal claim was being sacrificed for the greater good ... they had the right to opt-out of the class.' Put another way, without more, objections seeking a 'better' result are not sufficient to overturn a settlement agreement. ... The court does not find the settlement to be unfair or inadequate, particularly since class members were offered a choice of either cash or a case that undisputedly fixes the alleged defect. ... The court concludes that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate, and grants the motion for final approval of the settlement agreement."
Whyte ultimately awarded the class $2.1 million in fees and $126,900 in expenses.
"Although the court finds the lodestar generously computed, counsel should be complimented and credited for resolving the case without court involvement and protracted litigation," Whyte wrote.