An attorney seeking compensation for pre-settlement work he did for diesel car owners has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh his case against
James Ben Feinman said his due process rights were violated when a federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said VW didn’t have to pay him because the car owners released his liens in the $10 billion nationwide deal over devices to cheat emissions tests.
And the Ninth Circuit was wrong to fault him for not intervening in the class action or appealing the settlement’s approval, Feinman says in his petition for certiorari. That conflicts with federal appellate rules, he argues.
Feinman represented 674 owners of Volkswagen diesel vehicles in Virginia, 403 of whom opted into the VW settlement, according to his brief.
“After the opt-out date, Feinman dismissed all pending lawsuits for the 403 former clients who chose to remain in the Class,” he says. The district court then made the plaintiffs’ steering committee the exclusive counsel for those class members. And under the terms of the settlement agreement, his former clients released VW from all liens and attorneys’ fees, leaving him without payment, he claims.
The district court said VW should pay the consumers directly. Feinman and other non-class counsel were free to seek fees and costs from their former clients under the terms of their fee agreements, it said.
The Ninth Circuit echoed that approach. “Volkswagen has disbursed the settlement funds to class members, and Feinman remains free to collect his fees from his clients,” the appeals court said.
Norman A. Thomas, who practices in Richmond, Va., represents Feinman.
The case is Feinman v. Volkswagen Grp. of Am., Inc., U.S., No. 20-1170, petition for certiorari 2/22/21.