In October 2021, attorneys who had acted as the class counsel in litigation suing UnitedHealth Group over mental health reimbursement policies asked a New York federal court to approve a $3.35 million fee award. If approved, it would be an award of attorney’s fees in addition to the $10 million the insurer agreed to pay to settle their case.
According to the memorandum of law filed with the court, the mental health advocacy law firm argued that the results which they had achieved on behalf of the class of victims (who were all health insurance plan clients) easily justified the seemingly large requested fees and expenses.
We would agree with their argument. Too often disabled individuals, especially those suffering from mental disabilities, who need the help most, are victimized by large for-profit corporations. The attorneys and law firms who stand up for these individuals, especially those who are able to actually see the case through to completion, should be rewarded for their efforts.
The settlement reached in August 2021 resolved several consolidated lawsuits over UnitedHealth’s use of a “tiered” system to reimburse patients for out-of-pocket mental health treatment at lower rates than medical and surgical care were reimbursed. In addition to the $10 million private settlement agreement, UnitedHealth agreed to pay out $5.6 million to end claims from the New York State Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Labor. Read more about that here.
Payment of Full Legal Fees and Expenses.
The attorneys who are designated as “class counsel” in a class-action lawsuit are entitled to reasonable reimbursement of litigation expenses incurred in prosecuting a class action. In this case, after settling the case in chief, the class counsel negotiated a separate payment by United of up to $3.35 million for legal fees and expenses subject to court approval, according to the memorandum.
Additionally, the attorneys requested the court grant payment of $20,000 each for service (or incentive) awards for the three different class representatives. Incentive awards are designed to compensate the named plaintiffs for bearing the risks of bringing the suit, as well as for any time spent participating in the actual litigation of the case as an individual would have to do.
To be clear, the attorney’s fees will not be deducted from the $10 million settlement paid to the class members; they will be paid separately By UnitedHealth.
Is the Requested Amount Reasonable?
According to the memorandum filed with the court, the plaintiffs’ lawyers spent thousands of hours combing through data for over 110,000 class members and leading negotiations that included the federal and state agencies and the parties to the litigation. “Given the substantial risks plaintiffs faced in every phase of this case, the results achieved by class counsel are exceptional by any measure,” the memorandum argued.
To view the memorandum in full, click here to view it on our webpage.
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Stone, Rachel. “Attys Who Struck $10M UnitedHealth Deal Seek $3M Payday.” Law360. (October 28, 2021). Web.
Stone, Rachel. “UnitedHealth Strikes Deal To End Mental Health Policy Suits.” Law360. (August 12, 2021). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law; he is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888)-331-6620.
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