León Cosgrove

León Cosgrove Class Action Fee Raised by Florida Federal Judge

By: Scott B. Cosgrove

On Feb. 29, 2016, Law360 reported a $5 million Florida class action settlement that included the judge’s call for an upward fee adjustment for “excellent” work by plaintiffs’ attorneys from León Cosgrove LLC.

Our adversary, defendant Public Storage, a nationwide self-storage company, had called upon U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro (of the Southern District of Florida) to cap plaintiffs’ counsel fees at 25 percent of the settlement based on Eleventh Circuit precedent and the whittling down of many of the original claims in the case. However, Judge Ungaro said she believed the dismissed claims, including one for treble damages under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), had been employed strategically and successfully by plaintiffs’ counsel.

According to Law360, Judge Ungaro said that the original claims and the risk they presented to the defendant played a major role in bringing Public Storage to the negotiating table. “The level of advocacy really impressed me,” the judge was quoted as saying to explain her support for an “upward adjustment” of plaintiffs’ counsel fees into the range of 30 to 33 percent.

Judge Ungaro also pointed out that by investing so many hours on contingency in a case that might not have succeeded, the lawyers of León Cosgrove and Buckner & Miles took on great risk. And as also reported by Law360, Judge Ungaro further noted that Public Storage had changed its practices as a result of the class litigation against it.

Background

In 2014, León Cosgrove and Buckner & Miles had filed a nationwide class action in Florida federal court claiming violations of RICO and consumer protection laws in relation to Public Storage’s sale of self-storage insurance. The lawsuit alleged that Public Storage violated criminal law by using fronting companies to sell insurance to its tenants at inflated premiums, and by presenting the fronting company as a “convenient option” made available as a “service” to its customers.

To make sure its customers didn’t learn that Public Storage had a financial interest in the inflated insurance it was promoting, plaintiffs alleged that employees were trained to deny that Public Storage was engaged in the sale of insurance. Yet relevant securities filings brought into evidence in the case revealed that Public Storage received more than $80 million annually through its tenant storage insurance program. Discovery also revealed that Public Storage received 100% of the premiums paid by its customers.

After a nationwide class was certified, the class was subsequently limited to the state of Florida. The lawsuit ultimately was settled after Judge Ungaro last June partially granted a motion for summary judgment, agreeing to strike some, but not all of Public Storage’s affirmative defences. The settlement was struck only two days before jury selection, and we believe it was an excellent result for the class.


Humbled and Appreciative

This was bitterly fought litigation.  Defendant Public Storage literally used dozens of lawyers to fight our class action every step of the way. Therefore, we were deeply humbled by Judge Ungaro’s kind comments about our work, and deeply appreciative that our efforts were recognized in the fee award.

Law 360 listed the following counsel on the case:

For Public Storage: David P. Ackerman, Scott J. Link, Kristen L. McKeever and E. Raul Novoa of Ackerman Link & Sartory PA; and John W. Keker, Steven A. Hirsch, David J. Silbert, Quyen Ta, Paven Malhotra, Michelle Ybarra, Erin E. Meyer and Anjali Srinivasan of Keker & Van Nest LLP.

For the plaintiffs: Scott B. Cosgrove, Alec H. Schultz and Constantine P. Economides of Leon Cosgrove LLC; and David M. Buckner, Seth E. Miles and Brett E. von Borke of Buckner & Miles.
ScottCosgrove_BW_HRScott B. Cosgrove is a founding partner of León Cosgrove, LLC and a seasoned trial lawyer focusing on complex commercial litigation. His representations involve all manner of commercial disputes, including financial services litigation, fiduciary duty, fraud, partnership, intellectual property, and deceptive/unfair trade practice claims. scosgrove@leoncosgrove.com