The Ninth Circuit Affirms Attorney Fee Award Reducing Plaintiff’s Recovery In Light Of Her Limited Success

Plaintiff—who was improperly removed by County of Riverside social workers three days after she was born and then returned three days later—filed a Section 1983 putative class action, alleging thousands of other children had been wrongfully seized by the County.  Plaintiff engaged in extensive litigation, but after her motion for class certification failed, chose to settle with the County for $49,999.  Plaintiff’s attorneys then sought over $1.4 million as “reasonable” fees and costs for the “successful” prosecution of her case, but was awarded much less—approximately $220,000—because the vast majority of the litigation centered on her unsuccessful efforts to certify a class.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed in an unpublished Memorandum Disposition, denying Plaintiff’s claims that the district court abused its discretion in setting her attorneys’ hourly rates, calculating the number of hours reasonably expended in the case, and declining to award some of the costs she claimed.  The Court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the district court had failed to properly explain the reason for the fee reduction.  It found that the “clear but concise explanation” requirement for fee awards established by Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424 (1983) was satisfied by an order that considered the relationship between the fee award and results obtained, identified the number of hours compensated and hourly rate, and gave “some indication” of how it arrived at the amount of the award.

Click here to view the Ninth Circuit’s Memorandum Disposition:  A. A. v. County of Riverside (9th Cir. Mar. 18, 2022, No. 20-55960) 2022 WL 822187

Following GMSR’s longtime tradition, we turned on the “Pink Light” to celebrate our clients’ win.