CHRISTOPHER HEIEN, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; ANNA NGUYEN, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; ANNA MINIUTTI, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; BENJAMIN SPILLER, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; ANTONIA PEABODY, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; ENDICOTT PEABODY, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; HUMOUD AL SABAH, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; BRIAN EPSTEIN, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; LAURA NESCI, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; RON LEVY, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; ANDREA MANGONE, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; NICOLAI JAKOBSEN, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, Appellants,
ARCHSTONE; ARCHSTONE COMMUNITIES, LLC; ASN PARK ESSEX, LLC; ASN QUINCY, LLC; ASN QUARRY HILLS, LLC; ASN NORTH POINT I, LLC; ARCHSTONE NORTH POINT, LLC; ARCHSTONE CRONIN'S LANDING; ASN WATERTOWN, LLC; ASN KENDALL SQUARE, LLC; ARCHSTONE AVENIR, LP; ASN BEAR HILL, LLC, Defendants, Appellees.
FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MASSACHUSETTS [Hon. William G. Young, U.S. District Judge]
Foye, with whom Michael Brier, Kevin Thomas Peters, Arrowood
Peters LLP, Matthew J. Fogelman, Fogelman & Fogelman LLC,
Joshua N. Garick and Law Offices of Joshua N. Garick were on
brief, for appellants.
M. White, with whom Baker & Hostetler LLP, Thomas H.
Wintner and Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo,
P.C. were on brief, for appellees.
Torruella and Barron, Circuit Judges, and Lisi, [*] District Judge.
Plaintiffs in this class action are former and current
tenants of residential property in Massachusetts leased to
them by Defendants Archstone and several related entities. In
their suit, the Plaintiffs challenged certain "amenity
use fees, " which, they alleged, were imposed by the
Defendants in violation of the Massachusetts Security Deposit
Statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 186, § 15B, and Chapter 93A
of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, Mass. Gen. Laws
ch. 93A, § 1 et seq. The underlying litigation
having long been resolved with a complete settlement between
the parties, this appeal springs solely from class
counsel's dissatisfaction with the amount of
attorneys' fees awarded to them by the district court.
Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in
fashioning the fee award, we affirm.
related case of Hermida v. Archstone
et. al, C.A. No. 10-12083-WGY (D. Mass., U.S. District
Judge William G. Young presiding), other Archstone tenants
had previously brought identical claims against one of the
Defendants' corporate affiliates. The Hermida
plaintiffs were represented by the same law firms as in the
November 29, 2011, the district court granted summary
judgment on liability in favor of the Hermidas, determining
that the amenity use fees charged by the Defendants violated
the Massachusetts Security Deposit Statute. Hermida
v. Archstone et. al, 826 F.Supp.2d 380
(D.Mass. 2011). Eventually, the Hermida case was
settled and the district judge awarded attorneys' fees
and costs of $62, 714.38, which was less than half of the
lodestar amount requested by counsel. Hermida
v. Archstone et. al, 950 F.Supp.2d 298
(D.Mass. 2013). In a detailed Memorandum and Order, the
district judge explained the reduction in fees for time spent
by counsel on travel, on performing clerical and
administrative tasks, and for the practice of block billing.
Id. at 311-315.
17, 2012, after the question of liability had already been
decided in Hermida, the Plaintiffs filed a class
action suit against Archstone and eleven other related
entities. In their complaint, the Plaintiffs stated that
"the principal common issues with respect to the class
are whether Archstone's charging of the amenity fee
violated the Security Deposit statute and chapter 93A."
Complaint at ¶ 71 (ECF No. 2-1) The Plaintiffs
acknowledged that "Judge Young's decision in the
Hermida v. ASN Reading case, Docket No.
1:10-CV-12083-WGY, is precisely on point." Id.
August 23, 2012, the district court stayed the instant class
action, pending waiver or resolution of all appeals of the
judgment entered in Hermida. Electronic Order (ECF
No. 41). In a September 30, 2012 status report, the
Plaintiffs informed the district court that the parties were
in settlement discussions. Status Report (ECF No. 43).
March 13, 2014, the Plaintiffs filed an unopposed motion in
which they requested, inter alia, preliminary
approval of a proposed settlement. Pltfs.' Mot. for
Settlement (ECF No. 47). The settlement agreement reflects
that the case was being settled simultaneously with
Hermida and that "by virtue of the settlement
in Hermida there will be no appeals and therefore
there is no longer a reason to stay the Action." Class
Action Settlement Agreement (ECF No. 49 at Page 2 of 29). The
settlement fund was capped at $1, 300, 000 for payment of
individual claims and attorneys' fees and costs.
Id. at Page 3 of 29. Under the terms of the
settlement agreement, the Defendants agreed "[t]o not
object to the payment of attorneys' fees and expenses
from the Class Settlement Fund in an amount up to 15% of the
total Fund amount ($1, 300, 000.00)." Id. at
Page 5 of 29. Any sums remaining in the settlement fund after
payment of all individual claims, administration expenses,
and attorneys' fees were to be returned to the
Defendants. Id. at Page 8 of 29. The district court
granted the Plaintiffs' motion to approve the settlement
on March 27, 2014. Electronic Order (ECF No. 50).
3, 2014, Plaintiffs' counsel filed a motion for
attorneys' fees and costs, in which they requested
payment of $429, 000 (33% of the maximum settlement fund) for
their services in this case. Pltfs.' Mot. for
Attorneys' Fees and Costs (ECF No. 53). In their motion,
the Plaintiffs acknowledged that the case "by itself did
not involve intense litigation, given the imposition of the
stay, " and they conceded that the case "only was
filed because Judge Young concluded that the Hermidas did not
have standing to assert claims against the defendants in this
action." Id. at 7. Counsel's submissions in
support of the fee motion included billing records that
showed lodestar attorneys' fees of $58, 693. Exhibits A-F
to Pltfs.' Mot. for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (ECF
Nos. 53-1, 53-2, 53-3). The Defendants responded with an
objection to the motion, suggesting that the district court