Railroad withdraws motion asking asbestos attorneys to pay appeal fees; resolved out of court

Jessica M. Karmasek Mar. 18, 2013, 6:13pm

NATCHEZ, Miss. (Legal Newsline) -- The railroad that won a fraud case against a pair of Mississippi asbestos attorneys has withdrawn its request for attorneys fees.

In August, Illinois Central Railroad filed its motion for fees it incurred fighting the appeal of William Guy and Thomas Brock.

The company alleged the two attorneys defrauded the company out of $210,000 in settlements, and the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a jury's verdict against the attorneys.

Unfortunately for the railroad, Judge David Bramlette, for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi Western Division, ruled in January 2011 that the fees request of more than $1 million was unreasonable.

So, in August, the company asked for the $90,000 it spent during the appeal to be reimbursed.

"(T)he Fifth Circuit appeal involved complex jurisdictional issues, never-before-raised issues and documents, hundreds and hundreds of pages of briefing, trial testimony, documents, exhibits and oral argument in Houston," according to the railroad's motion.

"Illinois Central successfully defended the underlying judgment and attorney fee award and should be awarded its fees for doing so."

According to an order filed by Bramlette last month, the company has apparently resolved the matter.

"In response to the Feb. 15, 2013 Show Cause Order, Plaintiff's counsel notified the Court that its Supplemental Motion for Attorneys Fees had been resolved by the Parties out of court and requested permission to withdraw the Motion," the judge wrote in his Feb. 19 order.

"Plaintiff's counsel has reiterated this request in an email, and Defendants' counsel has confirmed that the matter has been amicably resolved."

Bramlette granted the railroad's ore tenus motion to withdraw its supplemental motion for attorney fees and dismissed its supplemental motion for attorneys fees as moot.

The judge has awarded $547,500 in attorneys fees to Illinois Central, which says it spent $1,075,869.80 in fees, court costs and online research. The railroad recovered $588,822.96 in a Jan. 25, 2011 order, as well as $420,000 from a jury award in 2010.

Bramlette called the company's original fees request "extraordinarily high" and said the company knew the case could result in only $210,000 in compensatory damages.

When the judge's award was applied to its legal bills, Illinois Central still owed Forman Perry Watkins Krutz & Tardy more than $487,000. If the company used the $420,000 from the jury verdict, it was still $67,000 in the hole on the case -- assuming the law firm did not amend its bill after Bramlett.

Illinois Central's complaints alleged the company would not have been obligated to pay $210,000 in settlements had it known that Willie Harried joined a mass action titled Cosey in 1995 and Warren Turner joined in 1996.

Harried and Turner both filed suit against Illinois Central in 2001. The company's complaints say the attorneys knew their clients had taken part in the mass action and failed to disclose it.

Bramlette said Illinois Central used the fraud lawsuit to investigate any other potential wrongdoing by Guy and Brock, and that even though the litigation was somewhat complicated, the attorneys fees did not reflect the complexity of the case.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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