Business & Practice

VW Gets $1.1 Million Fees Bid Slashed in Settled Diesel Lawsuit

Oct. 16, 2020, 3:47 PM

A man who leased a diesel car will only get a small fraction of the $1.1 million in attorneys’ fees he sought from Volkswagen AG after he accepted its offer to settle his emissions-cheating claims because most of the claimed hours were excessive, a federal court in California ruled.

VW entered into class settlements with consumers over allegations that VW equipped its diesel vehicles with a “defeat device” to produce “clean” results during emissions testing instead of the excessive nitrogen oxides emitted during normal use.

John Vodonick, who leased a 2014 Golf TDI, opted out. He sued VW and its U.S. affiliate in California state court. His individual case was removed to federal court and transferred to multidistrict litigation overseen by Judge Charles R. Breyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

In June, VW offered $40,000 to settle his claims, and he accepted.

Vodonick’s lease agreement contained a provision that attorneys’ fees would be provided to the prevailing party in litigation, and he’s entitled to attorneys’ fees on that basis, Breyer said.

But attorney Michael Nudelman asked a rate that was too high. He also sought an unjustified multiplier in a case where VW conceded liability; and claimed unreasonable amounts of time for reviewing dockets, drafting Vodonick’s two complaints, composing remand motions, and performing other tasks, Breyer said Thursday.

Vodonick sought $879,500 in fees with a multiplier of 1.3, totalling $1,143,935, according to Breyer. But after reductions of 85% to 95% in several categories and complete exclusions in others, the appropriate fee award is $21,175, Breyer said.

The Vodonick Law Firm and the Law Office of Michael Nudelman represented Vodonick. Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and Mayer Brown LLP represented VW.

The case is Vodonick v. Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, 2020 BL 398197, N.D. Cal., No. 16-cv-00219, 10/15/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martina Barash in Washington at mbarash@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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