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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Muniz v. UPS: Ninth Circuit Affirms $700,000 in Attorney Fees Following $27,000 FEHA Verdict

In Muniz v. United Parcel Service, Inc., ___ F.3d ___ (9th Cir. 12.5.13), the Ninth Circuit affirmed an award of $700,000 in attorney's fees where a jury awarded only $27,000 in damages for violation of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The Court held:

Plaintiff's counsel's declaration stating that he watched his paralegal reconstruct her working hours using the same information he used constituted inadmissible hearsay, and the portion of the fee award attributable to the paralegal's work should be reconsidered on remand. Slip op. at 13-15.

The district court court did not abuse its discretion in only deducting 10 percent from the lodestar amount for plaintiff’s unsuccessful claims, since California law allows for such percentage adjustments, and neither party was able to segregate hours spent exclusively on the unsuccessful claims. Slip op. at 15-18.

California law did not require the district court to reduce the disparity between damages and attorney fees. Slip op. at 18-19.

The district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to reduce the fee request further because the initial fee request of almost $2 million (calculated using a $1.2 million lodestar and 1.5 multiplier) was inflated. 
Slip op. at 19-22. 

The opinion is available here.

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