SAN FRANCISCO — Lawyers for the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit settlement involving the labeling of Post Consumer Brands cereals are set to receive approximately $5.5 million in fees following a June 25 decision by Judge William H. Orrick of the US District Court Northern District of California.
Judge Orrick approved the $5.5 million, or a little more than 30% of the $15 million class action lawsuit, for the law office of Jack Fitzgerald, PC and Jackson & Foster, LLC. In addition, the court awarded reimbursements in the amount of $967,606, and service awards to each Settlement Class representative in the amount of $5,000 each.
In an April 14 filing in the court, lawyers for the plaintiffs had requested $5 million, which exceeded a 25% benchmark, but the lawyers justified the amount under a lodestar-multiplier crosscheck analysis since it represents a 1.78 multiplier to the lawyers’ lodestar of more than $2.8 million. Lodestar is a method used to compute attorney fees.
The lawyers pointed out they risked thousands of hours of work and nearly $1 million in out-of-pocket expenses on a novel liability theory and reached a resolution after more than four years of litigation. The plaintiff lawyers reviewed over 59,000 pages of documents produced by Post, served subpoenas on 34 third parties, took 12 depositions, defended another 9 depositions and retained 5 experts who collectively authored 10 reports. The plaintiffs prevailed (usually wholly, but sometimes in part or as a practical matter) in 14 of the 19 substantive motions in the case, according to the April 14 court filing.
A preliminary court approval for the settlement came on Feb. 24. Post Consumer Brands, a business of St. Louis-based Post Holdings, Inc., agreed to stop using terms such as “no high-fructose corn syrup,” “less processed,” “wholesome,” “smart” and “nutritious” on its ready-to-eat cereal products where 10% or more of the calories come from sugar. Cereals involved included Post Selects, Great Grains, Honey Bunches of Oats, Shredded Wheat and Good Morenings.