Flint Plaintiffs’ Lawyers Ask for $200M in Attorney’s Fees From Settlement Amount

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the Eastern District of Michigan lawsuit following the Flint Water Crisis filed a motion on Monday asking the court to award a structure for attorneys’ fees which would grant them over $200 million, almost one-third of the proposed settlement amount of $641.25 million. Reportedly, the plaintiffs’ counsel spent 182,571 hours working on the matter. 

The proposed settlement reached by the parties would give 79.5% of the amount to plaintiffs who are minor children who were allegedly harmed by extended exposure to lead in the city’s water system, 18% to adults claiming property damages, 2% to programs to aid in relief, and 0.5% to businesses claiming economic losses. Although the settlement has been given preliminary approval, it is not yet final, and has received some critiques

The accompanying memorandum explained that the plaintiffs’ counsel “achieved a landmark … settlement in these cases that the Court has rightly called ‘complex’ and ‘intensely litigated.’” The plaintiffs’ attorneys reportedly invested significant time and expenses to reach the settlement, which they claimed was a risk, during the last five years without any compensation.  According to the memorandum, they will continue to invest time and resources implementing the settlement and in litigation for the defendants who have not yet settled. 

The fees are requested for the plaintiffs’ “Co-Lead Class Counsel and Co-Liaison Counsel, as well as Settlement Subclass Counsel and the law firms that have worked with and under the supervision of Co-Lead Class Counsel, including the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee,” according to the Motion for Attorneys’ Fees and Reimbursement of Expenses. The filing claimed that this would compensate the lawyers for their work and for the risk they took in choosing to prosecute on behalf of the plaintiffs. 

“The Fee Proposal is designed to provide reasonable and fair compensation to Plaintiffs’ Counsel and to ensure equitable treatment for all who make claims under the Settlement,” the memorandum stated. 

Specifically, Monday’s filing asked the court to grant requests for a common benefit assessment of 6.3% of the settlement fund, which would be given to co-lead and co-liaison counsel, for 27% of the value from subclass claims and the Programmatic relief Sub-Qualified Settlement Fund to be given to Co-Lead Class Counsel, and for reimbursement of about $7 million to account for expenses paid by the plaintiffs’ attorneys. 

Additionally, they claimed that individually retained counsel should have contingency fees capped at 27% or at 10% for contracts entered after July 16, 2020, in those cases an additional 17% would be contributed to the common benefit assessment. Reportedly, this is in an effort to have each claim “contribute an equal pro rata share to Plaintiffs’ Counsel’s fees, while also contributing to common benefit compensation.” 

The motion was submitted by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, and was signed by over 20 additional law firms.