Sprint says Weiss topped Lakin by $4 million in settlement

Steve Korris Mar. 6, 2009, 6:11am


NEWARK, N.J. - Though Brad Lakin claims he would have settled a Madison County class action against telephone company Sprint for more than Paul Weiss won with a similar case in New Jersey, Sprint claims Weiss topped Lakin by $4 million.

In a March 2 brief for Sprint, Joseph Boyle of New Jersey valued his settlement with Weiss at $17.5 million.

He claimed that last July, Lakin offered to settle for $13.5 million.

Lakin's New Jersey lawyer, Anthony Coviello, had branded the New Jersey settlement a reverse auction in January and moved to disqualify Weiss and Burke as class counsel.

In a reverse auction, defendants facing similar suits from different legal teams drive costs down by bargaining with the weakest team.

Coviello wrote that Weiss rushed to settle while Lakin lawyers negotiated with Sprint in a suit they filed in 2004 for Jessica Hall of Pontoon Beach.

Retired judge Nicholas Byron certified Hall in 2005 to lead a national class action.

Predictably, Weiss and Burke opposed their disqualification.

Less predictably, Sprint Nextel opposed it.

"Sprint will not inject itself into this internal power struggle," Boyle wrote, but he injected anyway.

He derided the motion as "acrimonious rambling of attorneys in a competing class action whose opportunity to grab a slice of the attorney fee pie is slipping away."

"Any time a class action settles in circumstances of multiple, competing class actions, objectors from other classes will accuse the settling parties of engaging in collusion and a reverse auction," he wrote.

"These empty allegations, devoid of proof, cannot defeat a fair and reasonable settlement that has been negotiated actively, thoroughly and at arm's length between competent counsel," he wrote.

As of March 5, District Judge Jose Linares had not ruled on the motion.

Linares planned a March 12 hearing on final approval of the settlement.

It provides a $5,775,000 fee for Weiss's team, plus $171,558.80 in expenses.

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