Hendricks v. Starkist Co

Filing 410


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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 PATRICK HENDRICKS, Plaintiff, 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 v. STARKIST CO, et al., Defendants. Case No. 13-cv-00729-HSG ORDER DENYING OBJECTOR LINDBERG’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES, EXPENSES, AND AN INCENTIVE AWARD Re: Dkt. No. 377 On September 29, 2016, the Court granted final approval of settlement in this class action 13 filed by Plaintiff Patrick Hendricks against Defendant Starkist Co. (“Starkist”). Dkt. No. 373. 14 The Court approved a settlement amount of $12 million ($8 million in cash and $4 million in 15 vouchers), an award of $3,445,012.35 in attorneys’ fees, a reimbursement of $155,779.96 for class 16 counsel’s expenses, and a service award of $5,000 to Plaintiff. Id. at 3, 27–28. The Court also 17 granted Objectors Colin Moore and Kathy Durand Gore’s motion for attorneys’ fees and costs, 18 and ordered that the award of $154,987.65 be deducted directly from class counsel’s original fee 19 award of $3.6 million. Id. at 26–27. That same day, the Court entered judgment consistent with 20 the final approval order. Dkt. No. 375. 21 On October 13, 2016, Objector Eric Lindberg filed the pending motion for attorneys’ fees, 22 expenses, and an incentive award. Dkt. No. 377 (“Mot.”). He seeks $102,000 in attorneys’ fees 23 for his Florida and California counsel, $2,845.30 in costs for his California counsel, and a $1,000 24 incentive award for himself. Id. at 1. Objector Lindberg proposes that these sums “be paid from 25 the total common settlement fund and . . . be deducted from the fees and costs set aside for Class 26 Counsel in this Court’s [final approval order].” Id. On October 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed his 27 opposition to Objector Lindberg’s motion. Dkt. No. 380. That same day, Defendant filed a 28 joinder in Plaintiff’s opposition. Dkt. No. 382. On November 3, 2016, Objector Lindberg filed 1 his reply. Dkt. No. 392. The Court took Objector Lindberg’s pending motion under submission 2 on December 14, 2016. Dkt. No. 405.1 While Objector Lindberg’s motion was still being briefed, several objectors (including 3 4 him) filed notices of appeal of the Court’s final approval order and judgment. Dkt. Nos. 379, 381, 5 383, 384, 386 (filed between October 25 and October 31, 2016).2 On November 4, 2016, Plaintiff 6 did the same. Dkt. No. 393. Objector Lindberg’s motion for attorneys’ fees, costs, and an incentive award is denied on 7 8 two alternate grounds. First, the motion effectively asks the Court to reconsider what it already 9 decided in its final approval order: the allocation of the common settlement fund and the amount of fees awarded to class counsel. See Mot. at 1; Dkt. No. 373 at 27–28. Therefore, while not 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 styled as such, it is a motion for reconsideration subject to Civil Local Rule 7-9(a). The motion 12 was filed in violation of Rule 7-9(a) because Objector Lindberg did not obtain leave to file from 13 the Court. Furthermore, while Rule 7-9(a) requires that any motion for leave to file a motion for 14 reconsideration—and therefore, by definition, any motion for reconsideration itself—be filed 15 before entry of judgment, the motion at issue here was filed after judgment was entered. Lastly, 16 the Court’s final approval order was not an interlocutory order, which may be subject to a motion 17 for reconsideration under Rule 7-9(a), but rather a final order, which may not. For each of these 18 reasons, the motion does not comply with the Local Rules, and is therefore denied. Second, the Court lacks jurisdiction to grant the motion. The filing of a notice of appeal 19 20 “confers jurisdiction on the court of appeals and divests the district court of its control over those 21 aspects of the case involved in the appeal.” Griggs v. Provident Consumer Disc. Co., 459 U.S. 56, 22 58 (1982). Typically, a motion for attorneys’ fees is considered “collateral” to a decision on the 23 merits. See Budinich v. Becton Dickinson & Co., 486 U.S. 196, 200 (1988). This is because a 24 question that remains undecided after a final order on the merits does not prevent finality if the 25 resolution of that question will not alter or amend the decisions embodied by the order. Id. at 199. 26 1 27 28 The Court finds this matter appropriate for disposition without oral argument and the matter is deemed submitted. See N.D. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). 2 Two of the objectors appealed only the final approval order, not the judgment. See Dkt. Nos. 379, 383. 2 1 An attorneys’ fees determination generally fits this description. Id. at 199–200. However, if “the 2 order from which the appeal is taken is the very order” that a party “seeks to augment,” then the 3 district court cannot retain control of the aspects of the case on appeal. Kowalski v. Farella, Braun 4 & Martel, LLP, No. C-06-3341 MMC, 2010 WL 475357, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 4, 2010) (finding 5 that the court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the plaintiff’s motion for fees on remand, where the 6 court had already issued a prior order regarding fees and costs and the appeal of that order 7 remained pending); see also Budinich, 486 U.S. at 200 (“If one were to regard the demand for 8 attorney’s fees as itself part of the merits, the analysis would not apply.” (emphasis in original)). 9 Here, Objector Lindberg’s motion effectively seeks to reallocate the distribution of the common settlement fund and revise the fees and costs award to class counsel, both of which were 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 issues decided in the order currently on appeal. Thus, Objector Lindberg’s motion is not collateral 12 because granting it would by definition require “altering or amending” the final approval order. 13 See Budinich, 486 U.S. at 200. To the contrary, the notices of appeal (including Objector 14 Lindberg’s notice) divested the Court of jurisdiction over the matters decided by the final approval 15 order. See Griggs, 459 U.S. at 58. As long as that order remains on appeal, the Court lacks 16 jurisdiction to “augment” the fees, costs, and settlement allocation issues decided therein. See 17 Kowalski, 2010 WL 475357, at *1. 18 Finally, a federal court may deny a timely motion for relief that the court lacks authority to 19 grant because an appeal is pending. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 62.1; Gilsulate Int’l, Inc. v. Dritherm Int’l, 20 Inc., No. CV1301012RSWLJPRX, 2016 WL 844790, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 1, 2016) (“As 21 Defendants have appealed this Court’s Fee Order to the Ninth Circuit for review, this Court is 22 divested of its jurisdiction over the matter pending resolution of the appeal and may summarily 23 deny the Motion.”) The Court exercises its discretion to do so here. 24 For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Objector Lindberg’s motion. 25 IT IS SO ORDERED. 26 27 28 Dated: 5/25/2017 ______________________________________ HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. United States District Judge 3

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