Thursday, June 9, 2011
Qui Tam Plaintiff Awarded $2.2M in Attorneys' Fees
After winning a $7.6M jury award, the realtor plaintiff in a Qui Tam action (U.S. ex rel. Maxwell v. Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Corp. D. Colo., No. 04-cv-01224, 6/2/11) against the company he alleged falsely reported royalties with the government, the judge trebled the damages, and after adding statutory penalties the total award was $22.9M. The realtor plaintiff was then awarded $2.2M is attorneys' fees, plus expenses, under the False Claims Act, rejecting the defendant's arguments that the fees were disproportionate to the amount he would recover or unfairly compensated him. Of note, the court did not reduce the fee because of the reduced risk associated with the partial contingency aspect of the plaintiff's fee agreement, nor was the court troubled by the awarded fees being almost 29% of the original award (but only 9.5% of the total award as noted by the court). Lawyers will enjoy the fee calculation discussions; however, those in the industry should note the verdict amount, as well as the fee awarded, as further evidence of the teeth available through the False Claims Act.