Laffitte v. Robert Half Int’l Inc., 1 Cal. 5th 480 (2016)

An objecting class member in a wage and hour lawsuit challenged the trial court’s award of an attorney’s fee calculated as a percentage (one-third) of the overall settlement amount of $19 million. The objector asserted that pursuant to Serrano v. Priest, 20 Cal. 3d 25 (1977) (“Serrano III“), every attorney’s fee award must be calculated on the basis of time actually spent by the attorneys in the case and cannot be a percentage of the common fund. The California Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal, holding that Serrano III permits a trial court to calculate an attorney’s fee award from a class action common fund as a percentage of the fund, while using the lodestar-multiplier method as a cross-check on the selected percentage. In this case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by cross-checking the reasonableness of the percentage award by calculating a lodestar fee and approving a multiplier over the lodestar of 2.03 to 2.13.