Strawn v. Farmer's Insurance Company of Oregon

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Attorney Fees
  • Date Filed: 02-22-2013
  • Case #: S057520
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Linder, J. for the Court; Balmer, C.J.; Kistler, J.; Landau, J.; Brewer, J.; and Baldwin, J.

When determining the amount of a reasonable attorney fee award in a case that involves both a statutory fee-shifting award and a common-fund award, a court may consider utilizing both the lodestar and overall percentage method.

Petitioner Mark Strawn (Strawn) sought an award of attorney fees and costs. Strawn prevailed over Farmer's Insurance Company of Oregon (Farmers) in a class action lawsuit premised on contract and fraud claims. The jury awarded $900,000 in compensatory damages and $8 million in punitive damages. The trial court awarded Strawn $3.1 million in attorney's fees. The Court of Appeals reduced Strawn's attorney fees to $585,441, utilizing the lodestar approach which awards fees based on work done and not as a percentage of the overall award. Strawn appealed, arguing for a blended approach between the lodestar and contingency method. The Supreme Court agreed because the bulk of the damages derived from a punitive claim. Thus, a reasonable basis for assessing attorney fees should consider utilizing the overall percentage method and comparing lodestar, a reasonable daily rate, versus the amount received by a plaintiff. However, because the lodestar method already granted Strawn 42% of the common recovery, the Court refused Strawn's main request to multiply his fee. Affirmed in part; denied in part.

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