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Attorney fees award was reasonable, COA rules

September 16, 2015

After a former employee was awarded nearly $100,000 in attorney fees, R.L. Turner Corp. asserted the amount was unreasonable given the employee’s total award for damages was less than $12,000.

However, in R.L. Turner Corp. v. William Wressell, 06A05-1411-PL-540, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the award of attorney fees.

“Despite RLTC’s argument, there is no precedent which provides for a definitive cap to attorney’s fee awards based on the potential or actual recovery,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the court. “The recovery is only one consideration which the court may take into account when determining what amount of fees are reasonable. RLTC is free to lobby the legislature to promulgate such a rule but it is not this court’s place to do so.”

Wressell had sued R.L. Turner Corp. after he worked on two constructions projects for the company at Purdue University and Indiana University. Successfully arguing he did not receive the wages he was entitled to under the Indiana Common Construction Wage Act, he was awarded $11,558.46.

Also, the Boone Superior Court awarded Wressell attorney fees in the amount of $99,870.

Before the Court of Appeals, RLTC blasted the award. In addition to claiming the fees were unreasonable because they far outpaced the damages award, the general contractor also questioned whether Wressell’s attorney had actually worked the 332.9 hours which were billed at a rate of $300 per hour.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court’s analysis. The appellate panel concurred the fees were reasonable given the complexity of the issues along with the protracted nature of this litigation, primarily because of RLTC’s obstructive behavior.

“Were we to find that the fees awarded in this case were unreasonable solely in light of the ultimate compensatory award, there would be a chilling effect on the ability of injured employees to find attorneys willing to take their cases,” Bradford wrote.

     
 

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