Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Federal Court Allows For Attorney's Fees to Plaintiff's Attorney on a Contingency By Figuring Out an Hourly Rate

In the case of King v. Alpha Sigma Tau Nat’l Found. Inc., No. $:20-CV-00778 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 1, 2020 Brann, J.), the court ruled that 28 U.S.C. §1447(c) allowed the Plaintiffs to recover attorney’s fees in a federal court action even when the Plaintiffs were represented on a contingency. 

The court awarded attorney’s fees to the Plaintiff after remanding a case to the state court that the Defendants were found to have improperly removed to the federal court.

This matter arose out of allegations that the Plaintiff’s college age son died during a fraternity rush party.

The court rejected the Defendant’s argument that the language of the statute limited attorney’s fee awards to only those fees that were actually incurred by a party. The Defendants had argued that, since none of the fees were technically charged to the Plaintiff, who was represented on a contingency, the Plaintiff was excluded from recovering any attorney’s fees under the statute. As noted, the court disagreed and pointed to other circuit court decisions allowing Plaintiff to recover attorney’s fees even when they were represented on a contingency.

Notably, the court also reviewed other decisions within the Middle District of Pennsylvania and came to a determination that the reasonable hourly rate for an attorney in this forum, and more particularly in the Williamsport, Pennsylvania area, range from $180.00 to $325.00 per hour, depending upon the skill, expertise, and experience of the attorney working on the case at hand.

In the end, $11,377.75 in attorney’s fees was awarded, as well as additional compensation for money spent on an expert.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  The companion Order can be viewed HERE.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Dec. 17, 2020).

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