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Holding Plaintiffs’ Attorney to Task: Setting a higher bar for recovery of attorney fees

| May 21, 2013 | Firm News

In 2006, the Texas Supreme Court provided a comprehensive set of guidelines requiring limited proof by Plaintiffs’ attorneys for recovering attorney fees in cases where attorneys fees are statutorily mandated. The case, Tony Gullo Motors I, L.P. v Chapa, 212 S.W.3d 299 (Tex. 2006), required that claimants segregate their claims into recoverable and non-recoverable claims, and offer evidence that the fees were related to claim covered by the statute mandating attorney fees. 

However, in 2012, the Texas Supreme Court created a higher standard for recovery without even referencing their decision in Chapa. The Court’s decision in El Apple I Ltd. V. Olivas, 370 S.W.3d 757 (Tex. 2012) overturned a $464,000 award set by the trial court and affirmed by the court of appeals. Myriam Olivas sued Applebee’s, her employer, for sex discrimination and retaliation. The jury decided in her favor, and the trial court accepted testimony from her attorneys that they spent a combined 890 hours on the case. As the Supreme Court noted in their opinion, the testimony of the attorneys was completely unsupported by documentation or records. In overturning the award, Justice Hecht wrote that the “failure to produce any records supporting the hours they claimed to have spent on the case is fatal to their fee application.”

Since Chapa and Olivas seem at odds, and the Court in Olivas does not even reference the decision in Chapa, attorneys in Texas can only assume that the new standard is one requiring a full recording of hours. This creates a new bar for Plaintiffs’ attorneys; requiring them to account for their time, not just “ballpark” it.

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