Legal Memorandum: Class Action Attorney Fees in Minnesota

Issue: What factors do Minnesota courts use to determine an award of attorney’s fees in a class action?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Attorney fees; Class action
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 401 N.W.2d 655; 506 U.S. 103; 168 F.3d 1179; 757 F. Supp. 998; 461 U.S. 424
Cited Statutes: Minn. R. Civ. P. 23.08
Date: 02/01/2015

“In an action certified as a class action, the court may award reasonable attorney fees and nontaxable costs authorized by law or by agreement of the parties.”  Minn. R. Civ. P. 23.08.  “Under Minnesota law an award of attorneys’ fees is within the discretion of the trial court and will not be disturbed absent a clear abuse of discretion.”  Gopher Oil Co., Inc. v. Union Oil Co. of Cal., 757 F. Supp. 998, 1014 (D. Minn. 1991); see also Becker v. Alloy Hardfacing & Eng’g Co., 401 N.W.2d 655, 661 (Minn. 1987). 

The trial court’s discretion to award fees, of course, is not unlimited.  “A trial court must provide a concise but clear explanation of its reasons for the fee award.”  Milner v. Farmers Ins. Exch., 748 N.W.2d 608 (Minn. 2008)  “When an adjustment is requested on the basis of either the exceptional or limited nature of the relief obtained by the plaintiff, the district court should make clear that it has considered the relationship between the amount of the fee awarded and the results obtained.”  Specialized Tours, Inc. v. Hagen, 392 N.W.2d 520, 543 (Minn. 1986) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983)).

In Milner v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, 748 N.W.2d 608 (Minn. 2008) the court elaborated on what constitutes a reasonable basis for the award of attorneys fees in a class action in which plaintiffs achieved limited success but did not prevail […]

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