McKeage v. TMBC, LLC, No. 15-3191 (8th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs filed a class action against TMBC, challenging TMBC's nationwide practice of charging a document fee when selling boats and trailers under form contracts governed by Missouri law. The district court approved class certification and then granted summary judgment to the class, awarding treble damages and attorney fees. The district court determined that TMBC prepared legal documents attendant to its sales and that charging a fee for those documents constituted unauthorized law business in violation of Mo. Rev. Stat. 484.010 and 484.020. Both parties appealed. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the class as ultimately defined met the requirements of Rule 23 and certifying the case as a class action; the district court did not err in granting the class members' motion for summary judgment or in calculating damages based upon the entire document fee; and the district court did not err in applying Missouri law to sales that occurred outside Missouri. Accordingly, the court affirmed as to these issues. The court then addressed plaintiffs' contention that the district court erred when it held that the attorneys’ fees should be paid from the common fund rather than paid by TMBC pursuant to the contractual fee-shifting provision, concluding that enforcement of the fee-shifting provision honors both the contract and the principles underlying the common fund doctrine. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings as to the award. The court noted that if the district court, on remand, should determine that counsel for the class is entitled to additional fees from the common fund, apart from those reasonable expenses covered by the fee-shifting provision, it is not prohibited from awarding additional fees.