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.”
But the plaintiffs’ fee application, Judge Ricciuti noted, focused on the total number of hours charged by the plaintiffs’ lawyers—not the number of hours reasonably necessary to address the Chapter 93A claim. “Plaintiffs’ failure to segregate [their] efforts on the Chapter 93A claim from the rest of [their] efforts is unhelpful in calculating [the fee award],” he wrote. “Plaintiffs contend that all of their work was arguably related to that claim, but this argument is unconvincing, as there were several other, contested claims in the case that were separate from the Chapter 93A claim . . . .”
Judge Ricciuti therefore calculated the fee award based on the “lodestar” method, focusing on the “reasonable number of hours billed at a reasonable hourly rate for the work necessary to prevail on the Chapter 93A claim.” “Under the relevant factors and facts of this case,” he ruled,
a fair estimate of the effort required on this claim is a little more than half of the time and costs claimed, 55% of the total, amounting to $275,204.60 in attorneys’ fees and $6,247.89 in costs. This award is proportional to the significance of the Chapter 93A issue and reflects the time and labor required to prevail on that claim, which was critical to the overall result, as well as the experience, reputation and ability of Plaintiffs’ counsel and the usual price charged for similar services by other attorneys in the same area.
You can review Judge Ricciuti’s decision here.
The Business Litigation Session of Superior Court:
Docket Number: 17-3565-BLS2
Case Name: Commonwealth Insurance Partners, LLC, et al. v. Boucher, et al.
Date of Decision: January 1, 2023
Judge: Michael D. Ricciuti, Justice of the Superior Court