Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Fangman v. Genuine Title, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 10, 2017

EDWARD J. AND VICKI FANGMAN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
GENUINE TITLE, LLC, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         On December 16, 2016, this Court conducted a Final Fairness Hearing on the Proposed Class Action Settlement (ECF No. 277-2) (“Settlement Agreement”) of all claims asserted in this action against Defendant JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (“Chase”). Via Order dated that same day (ECF No. 421), this Court granted final approval of the Settlement Agreement, dismissed all claims against Chase, and approved the parties' requested service awards for Class Representatives Carol Shaw and Patricia Marshall in the amount of $3, 500 each, including their settlement benefits[1]. See Order, ¶¶ 8, 9, 13, ECF No. 421. Final Judgement has been entered in this case against Chase in “an amount[2] necessary to fund Settlement Benefits payable to [Chase] Class Members, in accordance with the Settlement Agreement, ” discussed infra. Id. at ¶¶ 11, 15. Still pending before this Court is Settlement Counsels' Petition for Attorneys' Fees and Expenses (ECF No. 356). The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no additional hearing on the issue of attorneys' fees and expenses is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated herein, the pending Settlement Counsels' Petition for Attorneys' Fees and Expenses (ECF No. 356) is GRANTED in the requested amount of $82, 139.52, an award equal to 25% of the Chase Settlement Common Fund.[3]

         BACKGROUND

         In January of 2014, Plaintiffs Edward J. and Vicki Fangman brought this class action against Defendant Genuine Title, LLC alleging, inter alia, violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), 12 U.S.C. §§ 2607(a), (b)[4]. See Compl., ECF No. 2. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (“Chase”) was named as a Defendant in the Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 138). An additional thirteen home mortgage lenders have also been named as Defendants (collectively “Lender Defendants”) via the First and Second Amended Complaints in this action. Attorneys Michael Paul Smith, Sarah Zadrozny, Timothy J. Maloney, and Veronica Nannis of the law firms of Smith, Gildea & Schmidt, LLC (“SGS”) and Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, P.A. (“JGL”) (hereinafter “Settlement Counsel”) have represented all Plaintiffs, including the Chase Plaintiffs, throughout this litigation.

         In prosecuting this case, Settlement Counsel have incurred significant expense and have undergone significant investigation. For example, in July of 2013, Plaintiffs filed a Petition for Emergency Appointment of a Receiver for the purpose of retrieving and preserving the documents, books, and records of Genuine Title in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Maryland. That court granted the petition on July 30, 2014, and Settlement Counsel were able to retrieve vast amounts of evidence from Genuine Title's records, including the identities of potential Chase Class Members. Additionally, Settlement Counsel have subpoenaed records, documents, and testimony from a prior investigation into Chase's home mortgage lending practices conducted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) and the State of Maryland. See Fangman, et al. v. Genuine Title, LLC, et al., No. RDB-14-0081, 2016 WL 560483, at *2 (D. Md. Feb. 12, 2016). That investigation involved similar allegations to those raised by the Plaintiffs in this action. In that case, Chase ultimately agreed to a Stipulated Final Judgment and Order (the “Consent Decree”) with the CFPB and the State, pursuant to which Chase agreed to refund certain settlement charges to Chase borrowers.

         Chase Filed a Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint on July 21, 2015 (ECF No. 170), to which Plaintiffs responded on September 4, 2015 (ECF No. 182). However, the parties subsequently requested that this Court suspend consideration of Chase's Motion to Dismiss, pending settlement discussions (ECF No. 206). The parties filed a Joint Motion to Preliminarily Approve Settlement on May 16, 2016 (ECF No. 277), attaching the Settlement Agreement as Exhibit A (ECF No. 277-2). This Court held a Preliminary Fairness Hearing on June 1, 2016 and granted the parties' Joint Motion via Order dated that same date (ECF No. 286). This Court's Order designated Michael Paul Smith, Sarah Zadrozny, Timothy J. Maloney, and Veronica Nannis of the law firms of Smith, Gildea & Schmidt, LLC (“SGS”) and Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, P.A. (“JGL”) as Settlement Counsel.

         The Settlement Agreement provides for the payment of the following benefits to the Chase Class Members: “an amount equal to 120% the Section 1100 Charges that were paid to [Genuine Title] (excluding Line 1108 title underwriter's fees) as reflected on the member's final HUD-1 Settlement Statement for the member's Chase loan.” Settlement Agreement, ¶ 6.1, ECF No. 277-2. The settlement benefits are to be deposited into a Common Fund, which Settlement Counsel has subsequently indicated will reach a total value of $328, 558.08. See Correspondence, p. 1, ECF No. 422.

         With respect to attorneys' fees and expenses, the Settlement Agreement provides that Chase will pay attorneys' fees and expenses “in addition to, not out of the Common Fund.” Settlement Agreement, ¶ 12, ECF No. 277-2. The Settlement Agreement provides that Settlement Counsel shall limit the amount of their requested attorneys' fees and expenses to an amount equal to 25% of the Common Fund. Id. The Agreement further provides that Chase reserves the right to oppose any petition for attorneys' fees and expenses that seeks more than an aggregate award equal to 20% of the Common Fund. Id.

         Under the terms of the Settlement Agreement, a notice plan was completed pursuant to which all members of the Chase Class were informed of the Settlement Agreement's terms, including the provisions for payment of attorneys' fees and expenses. See Id. at ¶ 10. No objections to the terms of the Settlement Agreement or requests for exclusion from the settlement have been filed. On November 4, 2016, this Court conducted a Final Fairness Hearing on the proposed settlement and granted final approval of the Settlement Agreement that same day.

         ANALYSIS

         Settlement Counsel have requested an award of attorneys' fees and expenses in the amount of 25% of the Common Fund, or $82, 139.52. Mot. for Attorneys' Fees, p. 2, ECF No. 356; Correspondence, p. 1, ECF No. 422. Pursuant to the terms of the Settlement Agreement, $3, 892.43 of that award will be paid to the Class Representatives-the difference between their settlement benefits and $3, 500 service awards previously awarded by this Court. See Settlement Agreement, ¶ 11, ECF No. 277-2; Correspondence, p. 1, ECF No. 422. An additional $1, 025.84 of that award will cover Settlement Counsels' expenses. Correspondence, p. 1, ECF No. 422. Accordingly, Settlement Counsel request a total of $77, 221.25 in attorneys' fees alone. Id. Although Chase reserved the right to object to any request for attorneys' fees and expenses in excess of 20% of the Common Fund, Chase has filed a Notice of Non-Opposition to Settlement Counsels' pending motion (ECF No. 366).

         Rule 23(h) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[i]n a certified class action, the court may award reasonable attorney's fees and nontaxable costs that are authorized by law or by the parties' agreement.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(h). Additionally, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”) provides that “[i]n any private action brought pursuant to this subsection, the court may award to the prevailing party the court costs of the action together with reasonable attorneys fees.” 12 U.S.C. § 2607(d)(5). As this Court has previously noted, “[t]here are two primary methods of calculating attorneys' fees: the lodestar method and the ‘percentage of recovery' method.” Whitaker v. Navy Fed. Credit Union, No. RDB-09-2288, 2010 WL 3928616, at *4 (D. Md. Oct. 4, 2010). “The lodestar method requires the multiplication of the number of hours worked by a reasonable hourly rate, the product of which this Court can then adjust by employing a ‘multiplier.' ” Id. “The percentage of the recovery method involves an award based on a percentage of the class recovery, set by the weighing of a number of factors by the court.” Id.

         For the reasons explained in this Court's prior Memorandum Opinion of November 18, 2016 (ECF No. 411), the “percentage of recovery” method shall be used to calculate Settlement Counsels' attorneys' fees and expenses in this case. However, this Court will cross-check the “percentage of recovery” analysis with a lodestar analysis. This Court has previously recognized that “using the percentage of fund method and supplementing it with the lodestar cross-check . . . take[s] advantage of the benefits of both methods.” Singleton v. Domino's Pizza, LLC, 976 F.Supp.2d 665, 681 (D. Md. 2013) (quoting In re The Mills Corp. Securities Litig., 265 F.R.D. 246, 261 (E.D. Va. 2009)).

         A. “Percentage of Recovery” Analysis

         Although the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit “has not yet identified factors for district courts to apply when using the ‘percentage of recovery' method, . . . District courts in this circuit have analyzed the following seven factors:”

(1) the results obtained for the class; (2) the quality, skill, and efficiency of the attorneys involved; (3) the risk of nonpayment; (4) objections by members of the class to the settlement terms and/or fees requested by counsel; (5) awards in similar cases; (6) the complexity and duration of the case; and (7) public policy. [citing, e.g., The Kay Company v. Equitable Production Co., 749 F.Supp.2d 455, 464 (S.D. W.Va. 2010)]. Importantly, “fee award reasonableness factors ‘need not be applied in a formulaic way' because each case is different, ‘and in certain cases, one factor may outweigh the rest.' ” In re AT & T Corp., 455 F.3d 160, 166 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting In re Rite Aid Corp. Sec. Litig., 396 F.3d 294, 301 (3rd Cir. 2005)).

Singleton, 976 F.Supp.2d at 682.

         a. Results Obtained for the Class

         “ ‘[T]he most critical factor in calculating a reasonable fee award is the degree of success obtained.' ” Id. (quoting McKnight v. Circuit City Stores, Inc., 14 F.App'x. 147, 149 (4th Cir. 2001)). In this case, Settlement Counsel have secured a significant financial recovery for the members of the Chase Class. As outlined supra, members of the Settlement Class will directly receive more than 100% of the settlement charges paid to Genuine Title on their loans, in addition to payments they have already received from Chase pursuant to its prior settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”). Settlement Counsel have indicated that the Common Fund is valued at a total of $328, 558.08. See Correspondence, p. 1, ECF No. 422. Additionally, class members' settlement benefits will not be reduced by court-awarded attorneys' fees and costs, Class Representatives' service awards, or by the costs of settlement administration or notice, which Chase has agreed to pay separately. Furthermore, as this Court observed in Singleton, “[t]he fact that no objections have been filed further suggests that the result achieved is a desirable one.” Singleton, 976 F.Supp.2d at 683.

         b. Quality, Skill, and Efficiency of the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.