Attorney Fee Expert
Following a judgment for damages in state or federal court, a party may be entitled to file a petition or motion to recover attorney fees and costs. In Oregon state court, under Oregon Rule of Civil Procedure 68, a party has the right to an evidentiary hearing. Evidence presented at the hearing should include testimony from the lawyer or lawyers who handled the case, and are familiar with the effort and skill required by the case's particular circumstances. In addition, where the reasonableness of requested attorney fees is disputed, evidence should include testimony from a disinterested expert regarding rate, time, and the appropriateness of a rate enhancement or multiplier.
In Oregon federal court, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54, a party seeking attorney fees is limited to written submissions, and is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing. Where the reasonableness of requested attorney fees is disputed, written submissions should include an affidavit from a disinterested expert.
Robert Bonaparte has handled hundreds of cases involving court-fixed attorney fees. He has prepared model attorney fee motions, and published in 2007 a survey of judicially awarded attorney fees in Oregon. The model motions and survey are downloadable in Practice Aids. He has served as a disinterested attorney fee expert in dozens of cases in state and federal court.
This summer I won a construction lien foreclosure case on behalf of George Fox University. The case involved a $106,000 lien for unpaid electrical materials. George Fox paid the general contractor who paid the electrical sub. The sub went under and failed to pay Crescent Electric for the materials. The case hinged on whether the lien was timely and involved determining when substantial completion occurred. We obtained a directed verdict against Crescent Electric. It was a 1.5 day trial.
I used Bob Bonaparte as my fee expert. The plaintiff did not use an expert. The objection to the fee statement was basically "We plaintiffed the case and our fees were less". There were no specific objections as to which tasks were unnecessary or took too much time.
Bonaparte did a great job and was well respected by the judge. He testified that my rate at $250 and my associate's rate at $175 were well below market and should have been about $320 and $240, respectively. The judge awarded every penny of the fees sought, including hotel bills in Yamhill County, copies, mileage, etc.
If you prevail on a case that gives you a right to attorney fees in state court, it is critical to put on an expert. I highly recommend Bob Bonaparte. I have used him a number of times, and he is a great witness. I have had numerous hearings where the other side did not use an expert, to their detriment.