Asbestos lawyers file another appeal in fraud case

By John O'Brien | Feb 25, 2011

NATCHEZ, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - The two lawyers found to have committed fraud during asbestos litigation are appealing an order requiring them to pay more than $500,000 of a company's attorneys fees.

On Jan. 25, U.S. District Judge David Bramlette awarded $547,500 in attorneys fees to Illinois Central, which says it spent $1,075,869.80 in fees, court costs and online research in its lawsuit against two Mississippi lawyers. Illinois Central recovered $588,822.96 in the Jan. 25 order, as well as $420,000 from a jury award last year.

Attorneys William Guy and Thomas Brock allegedly failed to disclose their clients' involvement in a previous asbestos case. Illinois Central paid $210,000 to their clients and won that amount - plus $210,000 in punitive damages - in the jury award.

The attorneys appealed the fees decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit even though Bramlette did not award Illinois Central the full amount it requested. The company has spent more pursuing the case than it has recovered.

"Illinois Central's 5,731 attorney hours and nearly $1 million in legal fees is extraordinarily high," Bramlette wrote. "First, Illinois Central knew at the outset of this case that its maximum compensatory damages were $210,000.

"Even given the very real possibility of recovering punitive damages, attorneys fees that are nearly five times the maximum compensatory damages recoverable are not reasonable."

Meanwhile, the company is asking Bramlette to issue a permanent injunction against a lawsuit filed by one of the attorneys' clients in Hinds County Circuit Court. Willie Harried's lawsuit alleges Illinois Central knew its claims were time-barred and should not have pursued it in federal court.

The company says that allegation, that it lied about when it knew of Harried's participation in the mass action, is frivolous and unsupported by any facts.

The company claims the suit attempts to relitigate the jury verdict and to have a state court judge second-guess Bramlette's rulings while it imposes additional costs on Illinois Central.

Guy and Brock have also appealed the fraud ruling.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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