ILNews

Appeal moot, but attorney fees allowed

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal as moot but awarded the defendant appellate attorney fees and costs because the plaintiff engaged in procedural and substantive bad faith during the appeals process.

In Samuel Lesjak v. New England Financial, No. 29A02-0706-CV-499, Lesjak appealed the trial court's order that he arbitrate a claim filed against him by New England Financial in a forum other than the National Association of Securities Dealers. Lesjak worked for New England Securities as a broker/dealer. He registered with NASD to be able to buy and sell securities to the public. The agreement he signed when he was hired stated Lesjak would agree to arbitrate through NASD any dispute or claim that may arise between himself and New England Securities.

Lesjak had an assistant, whose salary was reimbursed by New England Securities. After Lesjak quit, the company sought the return of past payments to Lesjak for his assistant's salary in the sum of more than $24,000.

New England Financial filed a complaint against Lesjak to recoup the money. A letter attached to the complaint stated New England Financial is not a legal entity and is the service mark for New England Life Insurance Co. The complaint never stated which company was suing Lesjak.

Lesjak tried to arbitrate the claim through NASD, but New England Financial opposed it. The trial court ordered the parties to submit the matter to NASD arbitration, but eventually granted New England Financial's motion for a stay of proceedings because New England Financial is not a member of NASD and cannot arbitrate through them. The court ordered Lesjak to arbitrate the matter through another forum besides NASD. Lesjak appealed, and New England Financial was granted a motion to hold the appeal in abeyance. New England Financial explained that NASD, now the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, agreed to arbitrate the claim and this appeal should not move forward.

Lesjak filed a motion in opposition to holding the appeal in abeyance and sought a request for damages. He contended that because New England Financial acted with both procedural and substantive bad faith he should be awarded damages.

New England Financial missed the date on which to file a brief and was not granted an extension. The company filed its brief a week later and filed a motion to include documents outside of the clerk's record in its appendix.

The core issue of the appeal - whether the trial court properly ordered the matter be arbitrated, but not before NASD - is moot because arbitration is under way, wrote Chief Judge John Baker. However, the appellate court denied New England Financial's motions for extension of time to file its brief and to include documents outside of the clerk's record in its appendix. New England Financial was told it was required to file its brief by Nov. 13, 2007, and no extensions would be granted.

Chief Judge Baker wrote that based on New England Financial's actions during litigation of this case and the appeal, New England Financial clearly engaged in both procedural and substantive bad faith during the appeal, if not the entire litigation. The company fought for months to not arbitrate the claim and claimed arbitration with NASD would be impossible because New England Financial was not an NASD member, but the company then suddenly said arbitration would be accepted.

Lesjak has spent more than $19,000 in attorney fees seeking arbitration. He has established he is entitled to appellate attorney fees and costs pursuant to Appellate Rule 66(E) because of New England's bad faith during this appeal.

The case is remanded to the trial court for a calculation of the amount of attorney fees and costs Lesjak is entitled to and for the trial court to consider if Lesjak is entitled to attorney fees for New England Financial's conduct prior to this appeal.
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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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