Apple fights $27.5 mln legal fee request in California class action

The Apple logo is seen through a security fence erected around the Apple Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 5, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Paul Weiss team for Apple suggests granting plaintiffs' lawyers a smaller slice of $95 million settlement
  • Hagens Berman set to defend fee petition at April hearing

(Reuters) - Apple Inc has asked a judge to reject a request for $27.5 million in legal fees from a law firm that represented plaintiffs in a $95 million settlement of a consumer class action lawsuit alleging deceptive AppleCare warranty practices.

Apple's lawyers at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison said in a Feb. 11 California federal court filing that the litigation was not particularly "risky" and the outcome not so remarkable to justify an award of 29% of the settlement fund.

"While the settlement represents a fair result for the class, it was by no means exceptional," Paul Weiss partners William Isaacson and Karen Dunn told the court.

Apple asked U.S. District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco to limit the fee award to plaintiffs' firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro to $23.7 million, or 25% of the settlement.

That lower percentage is the benchmark for courts in California and other states that are part of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hagens Berman partner Steve Berman did not immediately return a message on Monday seeking comment. Isaacson and Dunn also were not immediately available.

A court hearing is scheduled for April 27.

Apple settled the class action claims last year, and Orrick in November granted preliminary approval to the deal.

The plaintiffs alleged in 2016 that Apple had issued refurbished replacement products under warranty programs despite contract claims promising "new or equivalent to new" devices. The lawsuit said Apple had unfairly charged premium prices to consumers.

Apple's lawyers in their bid to knock down the fee award said the $95 million settlement amounted to "only 13% of plaintiffs' claimed damages."

Apple clarified language in AppleCare contracts after the settlement, "but there is nothing in the record that supports class counsel's supposition that the change was attributable to class counsel's efforts," the Paul Weiss lawyers said.

Seattle-based Hagens Berman in its fee petition called Apple "a formidable defendant" with the resources to hire experienced and well-respected attorneys." The plaintiffs' firm was founded in 1993 and has more than 80 lawyers in offices across the U.S.

The firm said a 29% award would be "within the range for a class action of this size and complexity."

The case is Maldonado v. Apple, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:16-cv-04067-WHO.

For plaintiffs:

For Apple: Karen Dunn and William Isaacson of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

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