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Attorney fees affirmed in trucking dispute; COA declines to bar such awards

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An appellate panel Tuesday affirmed an award of attorney fees under a standard industry agreement and declined an invitation to strip Indiana trial courts of the ability to enter such judgments.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Lake Superior Judge Calvin D. Hawkins’ award of about $12,000 in legal fees to a trucking company that successfully defended a lawsuit a shipper filed claiming that its trailers weren’t returned in a timely manner and it was therefore entitled to per diem expenses.

In Evergreen Shipping Agency Corp., v. Djuric Trucking, Inc., 45A03-1302-CC-40, the panel rejected Evergreen’s claim that the award of legal fees was barred by the doctrine of res judicata because Djuric failed to win a claim for attorney fees sought under the Indiana frivolous lawsuit statute. Djuric did, however, prevail on the merits in the case brought by Evergreen.

Here, Djuric sued for legal fees provided under the Uniform Intermodal Interchange and Facilities Access Agreement, an industry standard accord that applies to more than 90 percent of shipping arrangements in the United States.

“Djuric’s ability to recover under the UIIA could not have been determined in the prior action,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the panel. “The UIIA allows the prevailing party to recover reasonable attorney’s fees. In the prior action, the trial court had to determine who the prevailing party would be. Only after Djuric was found to be the prevailing party could it seek attorney’s fees pursuant to the UIIA.

“Djuric could not have reasonably argued that the trial court erred by failing to award it attorney’s fees based on a theory Djuric had not yet asserted. We cannot say that Djuric waived its claim for attorney’s fees under the UIIA,” Vaidik wrote in the unanimous opinion joined by judges John Baker and Ezra Friedlander.

In a concluding footnote, the panel also rejected a sweeping request from the shipping company.

“Evergreen asks this Court to adopt a new rule divesting trial courts of jurisdiction to award attorney’s fees in circumstances like this,” Vaidik wrote. “We decline to do so.”



 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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