Law.com recently published astory that a federal judge has awarded more than $31.5 million to class-action lawyers who spent eight years battling The Coca-Cola Co. over whether it artificially inflated revenue figures to boost stock prices. However, note that in his order, Judge Willis B. Hunt Jr. reduced and disallowed a number of charges submitted by the class action lawyers. One of the expenses he disallows is the $93,960.67 in "Lexis,Westlaw, Online Library Research" charges submitted. He says "This Court is of the opinion that charging separately for use of a research service is akin to charging for the useof a caselaw reporter. That is,the research service is a tool, much like a computer or a pen, and this Court considers the use of such a service part of a firm's overhead... computer-aided research, like any other form of legal research, is a component of attorneys' fees and cannot be independently taxed as an item of cost in addition to theattorneys' fee award... Moreover, this Court is aware that many firms pay a flat rate to Lexis and Westlaw regardless of their usage, and class counsel cannot claim such flat rate payments as an out-of-pocket expense." He cites Leftwich v. Harris-Stowe State College, 702F.2d 686,695 (8thCir. 1983). In that case, the opinion states "(an) exception is the court's award of $145.89 for Lexis research. We believe that computer-aided research, like any other form of legal research, is a component of attorneys' fees and cannot be independently taxed as an item of cost in addition to the attorneys' fee award the district court granted Leftwich. Accordingly, we vacate that portion of the district court's cost award relating to Lexis research."
The case, from the US District Court for the northern district of Georgia, is Carpenters Health & Welfare Fund, et al vs. The Coca Cola Company etal. FILE NO.: 1:00-CV-2838-WBH.