Boeing Company v. Van Gemert

PETITIONER: Boeing Company
RESPONDENT: Van Gemert
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division

DOCKET NO.: 78-1327
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 444 US 472 (1980)
ARGUED: Dec 03, 1979
DECIDED: Feb 19, 1980

ADVOCATES:
Norman Winer - on behalf of Respondents
S. Hazard Gillespie, Jr. - on behalf of Petitioners

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Boeing Company v. Van Gemert

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 03, 1979 in Boeing Company v. Van Gemert

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - February 19, 1980 in Boeing Company v. Van Gemert

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 1327, Boeing Company against Van Gemert will be announced by Mr. Justice Powell.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

This case comes to us on certiorari from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

It presents a problem as to the source of attorney's fees in a rather complicated class action case.

As the facts may be unique and of little general interest, I will say only a word about the holding, the District Court awarded the class a lump-sum judgment against Boeing.

The Court then ordered that every member must bear his proportionate part of attorney's fees ultimately to be awarded.

Each member of the class has an undisputed and mathematically ascertainable claim to a part of the lump-sum award, whether exercised or not, each class member is legally benefited by this right.

We therefore agree with the Court of Appeals that each class member must bear as a charge against the fund, his proportionate share of such attorney's fees as ultimately is awarded.

This is an application of the common-fund doctrine and therefore, it is consistent with the American rule against the taxing of attorney's fees against the losing party.

We therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Mr. Justice Rehnquist has filed a dissenting opinion.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Powell.