Costs of Class Action Litigation
Opinion rules that a lawyer may not agree to bear the costs of federal class action litigation.
Editors Note: But see In re S.E. Hotel Properties Ltd. Partnership, 151 F.R.D. 597 (W.D.N.C. 1993).
In a class action under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, can the plaintiff's counsel agree to bear all or part of the costs of the litigation? In an ordinary civil suit, are there any circumstances under which the plaintiff's counsel can agree to bear the costs of litigation? If so, what are some of those circumstances?
An attorney may never ethically agree to be ultimately responsible for the costs of litigation. Rule 5.3(b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct allows a lawyer to advance the costs of litigation if the client remains ultimately liable for such expenses. The rule contains no exception for lawyers prosecuting class action litigation in federal court. It is therefore impermissible for an attorney to agree with his or her client to bear some or all of the costs of such litigation.