In November 2015—well after the merits briefing in Laffitte was complete—the Court of Appeal (First Appellate District, Division One) handed down its opinion in Roos v. Honeywell International, Inc., 241 Cal.App.4th 1472 (2015). Roos is another case involving an objector's challenge to the fees awarded to class counsel, and I remember thinking at the time that it was a good candidate for a "grant and hold" pending resolution of Laffitte. However, no review petition was filed.
Roos addresses many of the same topics considered in Laffitte. The opinion's discussion of the history of the lodestar-multiplier method and the percentage method under federal and California law (Roos, 241 Cal.App.4th at 1490-94) is ground thoroughly covered by Justice Werdegar in Laffitte (slip op. at 8-27). To the extent there may be any inconsistencies between the two opinions, Laffitte, of course, governs. The Roos analysis is informed by the no-longer-accurate assumption that "[t]he extent to which the percentage-of-recovery method should be relied upon in common-fund cases litigated in California courts remains unresolved." Roos, 241 Cal.App.4th at 1492. In Laffitte, the Supreme Court resolved that question (to the extent there was ever any doubt) by holding that the percentage method is alive and well in common fund cases.
Relying on Serrano, the Roos opinion also describes the lodestar method as "the primary means of calculating the reasonableness of attorney fees in California." Id. at 1495 (citing Serrano v. Priest, 20 Cal.3d 25, 48 n.23 (1977)). This sentence from Roos can no longer be considered good law. In Laffitte, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the cited Serrano footnote means that the lodestar method should be accorded primacy in common fund cases. Laffitte, slip op. at 20-21.
I do think that the outcome in Roos would have been the same under Laffitte. The Court of Appeal affirmed an order granting class counsel's motion for a fee award amounting to 37.5% of the settlement fund, which represented a fractional lodestar multiplier of 0.20. Roos, 241 Cal.App.4th at 1480. Laffitte makes clear that such an exercise of discretion is unlikely to be disturbed.
The Roos opinion also has interesting discussions of class member standing to object (241 Cal.App.4th at 1483-86) and the propriety of distributing residual settlement funds to cy pres recipients (id. at 1487-88). The opinion is well worth a re-read after Laffitte.