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Lawyers in concrete price-fixing case awarded $18M in fees

April 2, 2010

Despite objections from Duke Realty Corp., a federal judge has approved additional attorney fees relating to the ready-mix price-fixing settlement that drives the total take for lawyers up to nearly $18 million.

Judge Sarah Evans Barker signed off on the new fees earlier this week after Indianapolis-based Duke opposed a request to award an additional $9.7 million in attorney fees, calling the amount excessive.

Duke, one of the plaintiffs in the antitrust class-action lawsuit, had complained that the lawyers who had waged the five-year fight on its behalf would walk away with too large a windfall.

Indianapolis attorney Irwin Levin and his legal team negotiated almost $60 million in settlements with providers of ready-mix concrete in the Indianapolis area.

The $18 million in fees is based on a common formula in class-action cases that awards attorneys one-third of the recovery amount. The fees are among the highest ever for an Indianapolis class-action case.

Attorneys for Duke, however, argued a more appropriate award should fall between 5 percent and 22.5 percent of the settlement amount. They said in court documents that plaintiff lawyers “offer little substantive support that [one-third] reflects a true market rate, in this instance.”

Duke further said that by the time Levin and his team struck their largest settlement—a $29 million deal with Greenfield-based Irving Materials Inc.—the danger of not getting paid was “virtually nonexistent.”

But Barker pointed out that Levin and his team took the case knowing they wouldn’t get paid if they lost. Because of the uncertainties, class-action attorneys are accustomed to collecting larger checks than colleagues paid by the hour.

“From the time Class Counsel agreed to provide services,” she wrote, “this risk of the litigation has been substantial.”

Levin, managing partner of Cohen & Malad LLP, told IBJ in late March that other plaintiffs are “absolutely thrilled” about the settlement, and that they are recovering nearly the entire amounts they were overcharged as a result of the price-fixing scheme.

Barker rendered her final judgment on Tuesday.

Levin was co-lead counsel in the case with Stephen Susman of Susman Godfrey in Houston. Both are heavy hitters nationally who’ve won some big class-action settlements over the years.
 
 

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