Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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The en banc court reviewed five consolidated appeals from the district court's orders and judgment certifying a nationwide settlement class, approving a settlement, and awarding attorney's fees in a multidistrict litigation brought against automakers regarding alleged misrepresentations about their vehicles' fuel economy. After class counsel and the settling parties negotiated a settlement that the district court approved, objectors challenged the certification order and fee awards. The en banc court affirmed and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that common issues predominated where the inclusion of used car purchasers in the class did not defeat predominance and variations in state law did not defeat predominance. The en banc court rejected challenges to the adequacy of the class and held that the notice to class members provided sufficient information; the claim forms were not overly burdensome; and there was no evidence of collusion between class counsel and the automakers. Finally, the en banc court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying fees. View "Ahearn v. Hyundai Motor America" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's award of attorneys' fees to plaintiff and remanded for further proceedings. The district court exercised its common law authority to award the fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), but the district court did not have the benefit of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Haeger, 137 S. Ct. 1178 (2017), when it issued the award. The panel held that it could not determine whether the district court's failure to apply the appropriate legal framework was harmless. On remand, the panel instructed that Goodyear's causation standard requires the district court to identify those expenses that plaintiffs would not have incurred but for the specific conduct that abused the judicial process, or to determine that the government's misconduct so permeated all or a portion of the suit that "all fees in the litigation, or a phase of it, meet the applicable test: They would not have been incurred except for the misconduct." View "Xue Lu v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Board's decision upholding the ALJ's decision striking, as untimely, a petition for payment of a claimant's attorneys' fees under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. The panel held that the ALJ properly used the excusable neglect standard in evaluating the circumstances for the untimely fee petition, and applied the four-factor test in Pioneer Investment Services Co. v. Brunswick Associates Ltd. Partnership, 507 U.S. 378 (1993), to find that there was no excusable neglect in this case. View "Iopa v. Saltchuk-Young Brothers, Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of non-class counsel's motions for attorneys' fees arising from a class action settlement over claims regarding Volkswagen's use of defeat devices in certain vehicles. The panel held that law firms and lawyers that appealed in their own names had standing to challenge the fee order, because they suffered an injury (deprivation of attorneys' fees) that was caused by the conduct complained of (the fee order) and would be redressed by judicial relief. The panel also held that, because the underlying class action did not feature a traditional common fund from which attorneys' fees were procured, appellants could only have collected fees if they provided a substantial benefit to the class. In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that appellants did not and denying the fee motions on this basis. Finally, the panel rejected additional arguments by the Nagel Appellants and held that Appellant Feinman's challenge was moot. View "In re Volkswagen "Clean Diesel" Marketing, Sales Practices, and Productions Liability Litigation" on Justia Law

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The en banc court reversed the district court, vacated the award of attorneys' fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), and remanded with instructions to recalculate the attorney fees for the civil rights law firm that represented plaintiff. The en banc court clarified that when a district court awards complete relief on one claim, rendering it unnecessary to reach alternative claims, the alternative claims cannot be deemed unsuccessful for the purpose of calculating a fee award. The en banc court rejected the post hoc "mutual exclusivity" approach to determining whether "unsuccessful" claims are related to succesful claims and reaffirmed that Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424 (1983), sets forth the correct standard of "relatedness" for claims under the EAJA. The en banc court reaffirmed that in evaluating whether the government's position is substantially justified, the court looks at whether the government's and the underlying agency's positions were justified as a whole and not at each stage. View "Ibrahim v. DHS" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of debtors' motion under 11 U.S.C. 362(k) for attorneys' fees incurred on appeal in successfully challenging the bankruptcy court's award of attorneys' fees to debtors for a willful violation of an automatic stay. The panel held that section 362(k) also authorizes attorneys' fees and costs to the debtor incurred on appeal in successfully challenging an initial award made pursuant to section 362(k). The panel also held that the district court abused its discretion by denying the motion on the alternative ground that debtors failed to comply with a local rule. In this case, the memorandum of points and authorities filed with the district court sufficiently clarified the attorneys' fees and costs. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Easley v. Collection Service of Nevada" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' request for attorneys' fees after a settlement regarding California’s Assembly Bill X3 5. The panel held that the district court erroneously concluded that plaintiffs were not entitled to seek fees pursuant to California Civil Procedure Code 1021.5, and that the district court abused its discretion in denying Independent Living's motion to set aside fees from the retroactive monetary relief obtained in 2010. Therefore, the panel remanded for the district court to determine whether plaintiffs met the requirements to obtain attorneys' fees under section 1021.5 and Section III (C)(1)(a) and (b) of the Settlement Agreement, and whether it was possible and appropriate to recoup attorney's fees from Medicaid providers. View "Independent Living Center of Southern California v. Kent" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees in a copyright infringement action brought by a film production company, alleging that a single user illegally downloaded and distributed repeatedly American Heist, a Hollywood action movie. In Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc., 510 U.S. 517 (1994), the Supreme Court laid out factors to guide discretion in whether to award fees. The panel held that the district court did not faithfully apply the Fogerty factors in this meritorious BitTorrent action. The panel noted that the district court's analysis of whether fees are warranted should be based on Glacier's case against defendant, and not on the district court's view of BitTorrent litigation in general or on the conduct of Glacier's counsel in other suits. Therefore, remand was necessary because the district court denied fees under the present circumstances based on a one-size-fits-all disapproval of other BitTorrent suits. View "Glacier Films (USA), Inc. v. Turchin" on Justia Law

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Vogel, a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair, visited Harbor Plaza Shopping Center and, in the parking lot, encountered barriers that prevented him from fully enjoying the shopping center. Vogel sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, statutory damages, and attorney’s fees. Defendant filed an answer. The court scheduled trial for October 2015. In September 2014, the court approved Defendant’s request to substitute counsel, The request was signed by Defendant’s new lawyer and Defendant’s vice-president. Defendant and Defendant’s lawyer thereafter stopped appearing. Plaintiff prepared for trial. At the scheduled pretrial conference, Defendant and its lawyer failed to appear. The court noted that, in 2005, Defendant’s lawyer had been convicted of a federal corruption charge, continued the pretrial conference and ordered Plaintiff to provide notice. Plaintiff provided notice but they failed to appear at the continued conference. The court struck Defendant’s answer. Plaintiff filed an ex parte application for default, which the court entered. Plaintiff eventually moved for default judgment, seeking $36,671.25 in attorney’s fees and submitting a seven-page itemized list of his firm's work. The court granted Plaintiff default judgment; entered an injunction ordering Defendant to make specific structural changes; awarded Plaintiff statutory damages of $4,000 and costs, $3,590.83.1; and applying the local court rule’s formula, calculated fees of $600. The Ninth Circuit vacated the award. By eschewing the ordinary considerations that apply when calculating fees in ADA cases, the district court abused its discretion. View "Vogel v. Harbor Plaza Center, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff bought a Gilbert, Arizona home in 2004. She was required to pay the Community Association an annual assessment in monthly installments. Defendants notified Plaintiff in 2009 of her failure to pay a debt arising out of the assessment. Defendants represented the Association in suing Plaintiff. After Plaintiff defaulted on a payment agreement, Defendants revived the lawsuit and obtained a default judgment. The parties agreed to a new payment plan and to execute a stipulated judgment against Plaintiff that recognized the Association’s right to collect the debt by selling Plaintiff’s home. Plaintiff failed to make the required payments. The Maricopa Superior Court granted a writ of special execution for foreclosure on Plaintiff’s house. The property was sold for $75,000 at a foreclosure sale, and Defendants received $11,600.13 in satisfaction of the debt, including attorneys’ fees and costs. The district court rejected Plaintiff’s claim that Defendants violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by misrepresenting the amount of Plaintiff’s debt and seeking attorneys’ fees to which they were not entitled. The Ninth Circuit reversed. Defendants’ effort to collect homeowner association fees through judicial foreclosure constitutes “debt collection” under the Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692a(5). In Arizona, requests for post-judgment attorneys’ fees must be made in a motion to the court. No court had yet approved the quantification of the “accruing” attorneys’ fees claimed by Defendants; Defendants falsely represented the legal status of this debt. View "McNair v. Maxwell & Morgan PC" on Justia Law