A judge awarded nearly $10 million in attorney fees Thursday to a businessman who a jury agreed was owed royalties for three models of a line of celebrity-endorsed headphones from Beats Electronics, Dr. Dre and a record producer.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cunningham said $9.9 million was reasonable in light of the amount of work done by the attorneys for plaintiff Steven Lamar. Lamar’s attorneys had argued for nearly $15 million, while defense lawyers maintained $5 million was a reasonable amount.
On June 27, after nearly three days of deliberations, a jury found in favor of Lamar, who sued Dr. Dre — whose real name is Andre Young — producer Jimmy Iovine and Beats Electronics for breach of contract. Lamar said he brought the idea for the Beats by Dre headphones to the defendants in 2006 after they were designed by Robert Brunner, a renowned industrial designer.
Lamar sought more than $100 million, but the panel awarded $25.2 million to him and his company, Jibe Audio.
The jury found Lamar was owed royalties for three of the 12 later models.
Attorney Brian Melton, on behalf of Lamar, said after Thursday morning’s hearing that he was pleased with the attorney fees award. He also praised the judge’s recognition that a fee enhancement was proper given the many legal facets of the case and the fact that the lawyers took it on a contingency basis.
In his comments before ruling, Cunningham said that while the suit was a “garden-variety contract case,” it nonetheless had both global and celebrity aspects.
Defense attorney Arturo Gonzalez argued that fee enhancements of the type sought by the plaintiff are more appropriately sought in cases where lawyers need an incentive to take constitutional cases that do not produce large awards, but bring about needed policy changes in society. He also questioned some of the expenses on the plaintiffs’ side, noting that a paralegal claimed to have spent 528 hours reviewing emails.
But Stephen Morrissey, another of Lamar’s attorneys, said the paralegal worked through the duration of the case after it was filed in January 2014.
Trial testimony showed that not long after they first began working together, the parties had a dispute and both Dre and Iovine sued Lamar for breach of contract. They reached a settlement in which Lamar gave up his rights in exchange for a 4 percent royalty on every headphone sold.
After the settlement, Beats released new headphone models and began paying a 2 percent royalty to Robert Brunner until sometime in 2014, when Beats bought out Brunner’s interest. Dre and Iovine later sold Beats to Apple for $3 billion.
Defense attorneys agreed that Lamar was involved in initial Beats headphones plans, but said he was already paid for the one product for which he was entitled to compensation, the original Studio model.
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