Ill. Central again argues for $1M from asbestos lawyers

John O'Brien Jan. 10, 2011, 11:00am

Daniel Mulholland, of Forman Perry Watkins Krutz & Tardy, litigated the fraud case against the two asbestos attorneys.

NATCHEZ, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - The company that successfully argued fraud on the part of asbestos lawyers is reiterating that it is owed nearly $1 million in attorneys fees.

Illinois Central Railroad on Tuesday filed another brief in support of being awarded fees charged by attorneys who argued a pair of Mississippi lawyers withheld their clients' previous involvements in an asbestos lawsuit. Those attorneys - William Guy and Thomas Brock - have appealed the jury's verdict.

Illinois Central's brief argues:

-The jury award ($210,000 in compensatory damages and $210,000 in punitive damages) does not limit attorneys fees;

-Guy and Brock should be charged for fees incurred before they were defendants in the case; and

-Its hours (5,731) are reasonable even though the firm representing Guy and Brock worked only 2,532 because of time-consuming discovery requests.

"Guy and Brock's discovery requests to Illinois Central raised extensive and intricate lawyer-client privilege issues," the brief says. "While Guy and Brock were involved in the motion practice on these issues, their lawyers had no role in the tedious and labor-intensive process of reviewing, redacting and managing the hundreds of pages of privileged documents requested in Guy and Brock's overly broad discovery requests."

The brief also says the case was more difficult to prosecute than to defend.

"Illinois Central had to fight at every turn for access to the proof," the brief says. "To the contrary, Guy and Brock knew the whole story all alone.

"Guy and Brock had to do little other than deny their wrongdoing and blame Illinois Central for not catching on to their fraud earlier than it did."

Mark Behrens, a Washington, D.C., attorney with Shook, Hardy & Bacon, said in March that it is the first time he is aware of that asbestos attorneys have been found to have committed fraud.

The complaints alleged the company would not have been obligated to pay the settlements had it known that Willie Harried joined the mass action, titled Cosey, in 1995 and Warren Turner in 1996.

Harried and Turner both filed suit against Illinois Central in 2001. The complaints say the attorneys knew of the previous lawsuits.

Should U.S. District Judge David Bramlette rule against awarding attorneys fees to Illinois Central, then it will have, so far, spent more than twice as much in fees fighting the asbestos lawyers than it recovered from the lawsuit.

Illinois Central hired Forman Perry Watkins Krutz & Tardy of Jackson, Miss., to pursue the case. The firm, as of an accounting filed in November, spent 5,731 hours on the case and charged an average of $167 per hour.

By comparison, the defendants were charged $713,549 by their attorneys at Corlew Munford & Smith, according to the accounting they filed. The firm billed 2,532 hours for an average per-hour fee of $282.

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