Resource: Perdue v. Kenny A.

By: Oyez Project

April 21, 2010

In 2005, the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) and related state agencies settled a class action lawsuit with plaintiff foster children under the care of the DHR. However, the parties could not agree on the appropriate amount of attorneys' fees to be included in the settlement. Subsequently, the plaintiffs filed a motion in a Georgia federal district court for that court to make a fee determination and award. The plaintiffs argued that they were owed over $7 million for services rendered and also deserved a $7 million fee enhancement for a job well done. The district court largely agreed with the plaintiffs and awarded $10,522,405.08 in compensation, over $4 million of which was a fee enhancement. The district court reasoned that "the superb quality of counsel's representation far exceeded what could reasonably be expected for the standard hourly rates used to calculate the fee" and thus justified the enhancement. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it enhanced the lodestar figure (hours reasonably expended multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate) because of counsel's skill, commitment, dedication, and professionalism. The Court reasoned that the enhancement of the lodestar amount of attorney's fees may be allowed for superior representation coupled with the exceptional nature of results.