K&L Gates Accused of Charging ‘Suspect’ Legal Fees by WWE Plaintiffs Lawyer
The plaintiffs attorney, facing over $500,000 in sanctions, has taken issue with the K&L Gates partner’s hourly rate for research and other tasks.
APR 8, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 19, 2021
K&L Gates is being accused of making exorbitant demands for more than half a million dollars in legal fees, by a Massachusetts-based plaintiffs attorney who sued longtime K&L Gates client World Wrestling Entertainment and is now saddled with sanctions.
In the fee fight, plaintiffs attorney Konstantine Kyros of Kyros Law has pointed to tasks such as research and creating a PowerPoint presentation, alleging that K&L Gates overbilled for time spent on those activities. Jerry McDevitt, WWE’s lawyer at K&L Gates, has said the allegations have no merit.
Kyros received three sanctions for false claims and other violations made in his pursuit of now-dismissed claims on behalf of plaintiff wrestlers, who alleged that WWE hid head injuries leading to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
The team of litigators from K&L Gates are firing back at Kyros, saying that the sanctions are justified by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s standard of citing prevailing local rates.
The sanctions are necessary, K&L Gates litigators told U.S. District Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer of the District of Connecticut, to deter Kyros’ alleged misconduct over the years, which includes plagiarism, false claims and amassing law firms to file duplicative lawsuits against WWE.
Kyros, who is the managing partner of Kyros Law and represented more than 50 WWE wrestlers in claims against WWE, did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
In a March 12 court filing, Kyros said WWE’s demands for him to pay WWE $573,770.44 in attorney fees are largely based on the “patently unreasonable” 2020 hourly rate of McDevitt, WWE’s longtime lead counsel since 1987 and a litigation partner at K&L Gates.
Affidavits recently filed by attorneys for WWE show that McDevitt’s hourly charges increased from $815 in 2016, to $835 in 2017, $855 in 2018 and $955 in 2020.
The fight over fees comes in the aftermath of litigation that commenced in 2014, in which Kyros alleged WWE hid the risks of brain injuries from wrestlers, causing star wrestlers including Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka and Harry Masayoshi “Mr. Fuji” Fujiwara to develop CTE.
WWE’s demand for more than half a million in legal fees and costs associated with their applications for attorney fees come from $407,972.44 billed by K&L Gates and $165,798.00 in fees and costs billed by co-counsel at Hartford, Connecticut-based firm Day Pitney, court records indicate.
A Second Circuit panel of three judges issued a decision Sept. 9, 2020, to dismiss Kyros’ appeals in favor of WWE.
The court awarded fees and costs totaling $533,926.44, which includes $379,440.44 billed by K&L Gates and $154,486.00 billed by Day Pitney.
These costs were compounded following the Second Circuit’s ruling, when WWE’s counsel said the entertainment conglomerate has since incurred an additional $39,884 in legal fees and costs “in connection with their applications” for attorney fees.
In his March 12 opposition to WWE’s application for attorney fee payments, Kyros said McDevitt “spent far too much time performing basic work, numerous entries exist for nonrecoverable subjects, including research, drafting and conferencing over the crime-fraud exception, and over $20,000 for a PowerPoint presentation.”
“These suspicious fees may require audit so the Court can properly discern any appropriate percentage reduction,” Kyros said.
In a court filing that called K&L Gates’ fees “suspect,” Kyros argued that awarding WWE these additional fees for filing the filing of applications for attorney fees is “unjust” and a misuse of Rule 11 sanctions, which call for recovery of “all of the reasonable attorney’s fees and other expenses directly resulting” from the violation in question.
“This is not a sweeping sanctions award. It does not provide for all bills tangentially related to the sanctions motions,” he said, adding that WWE’s effort to justify their “unconscionable” fee applications is “too attenuated from the sanctioned conduct to warrant granting.”
Reached for comment Wednesday, McDevitt refuted Kyros’ allegations of overbilling.
He said the Second Circuit’s forum rule provides for charges to legal fees that are in keeping with prevailing local rates in the jurisdiction.
McDevitt claimed the sanctions are necessary to deter Kyros’ “frivolous” conduct in recruiting plaintiffs in high-profile cases to farm out to other law firms. In an affidavit filed earlier this week by McDevitt, he claimed Kyros’ history includes amassing a “battery of law firms in various states who signed onto the pleadings to wage massive and duplicative litigation against WWE.”
“Those are kind of the stock allegations he makes to try to get out of paying sanctions, but they don’t have any merit to them,” McDevitt said.
The Connecticut Law Tribune reported in September 2020 that court records revealed one of the three sanctions was exacted for not following a discovery order in the lawsuit filed on behalf of wrestler Vito “Big Vito” LoGrasso, who claimed extensive neurological damage and deafness from wrestling.
Two sanctions addressed alleged Rule 11 violations in a case involving Joseph Laurinaitis, also known as “Road Warrior Animal.” They alleged Kyros plagiarized a similar brain-injury lawsuit against the National Football League.
Kyros Law announced in February that it has filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Second Circuit decision affirming the dismissal of the class action lawsuits brought by former WWE wrestlers for neurological injuries they sustained in the ring.
LIT UPDATE: The petition was denied on April 26, 2021.