Where a party prevails on a Chapter 93A claim, the party should submit a fee application that segregates the fees for the work necessary to prevail on the Chapter 93A claim. That’s the key takeaway from Commonwealth Insurance Partners, LLC, et al. v. Patricia Boucher, et al., a case in which the plaintiffs asserted claims for breach of contract, violation of fiduciary duties, and violation of Chapter 93A.
After prevailing on their claims at trial, the plaintiffs filed an application for attorneys’ fees under Chapter 93A. Judge Ricciuti, sitting in the Business Litigation Session of the Massachusetts Superior Court, found that “the result obtained by Plaintiffs’ counsel under Chapter 93A was substantial and the successful result was achieved by experienced, reputable and capable attorneys.” He ruled that the plaintiffs’ lawyers “merit[ed] an appropriate legal fee.”
In Parker v. EnerNoc, Inc., Judge Salinger considered the plaintiff’s request for attorneys’ fees after the plaintiff prevailed on her employment-based claims at trial. According to Judge Salinger, the plaintiff did not submit “any real evidentiary support” for her attorneys’ hourly rates. Judge Salinger nonetheless relied on his own experience of “prevailing market rates for similar services by persons with comparable experience” to determine whether the fees were reasonable.
In Beninati, et al. v. Borghi, et al., Judge Sanders ruled that the plaintiffs in a successful action under G.L. c. 93A, § 11, were not entitled to recover $170,000 in attorneys’ fees incurred before the litigation began. The fees, according to the plaintiffs’ fee petition, related to “extensive settlement discussions” that predated the filing of the action. Judge Sanders wrote: “This Court is aware of no authority that permits the award of fees incurred before the litigation began and that do not bear directly on its preparation, which these fees clearly did not.”
In a Nexium class action against AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, Justice Sanders awarded $6 million in attorneys’ fees—30% of the $20 million common fund agreed to in a settlement achieved shortly before trial. Justice Sanders acknowledged that this was an “unprecedented” award for state court, but believed it was warranted by the facts of this case.
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- Senior Editor, Co-Chair, Business Litigation Practice Group