Attorneys generally collect about a third of what their clients win, but David Grubb of Charleston created new math when his firm made more than $20 for every dollar his clients won.
Kanawha County Circuit Judge James Stucky awarded Grubb Law Group $143,026.66 for winning a verdict against automaker DaimlerChrysler, after a jury awarded $6,950 to plaintiffs Larry and Carolyn George.
Stucky ruled in June that a court could award fees to attorneys whose clients prevail on claims under the state consumer protection law.
From DaimlerChrysler's point of view, Larry and Carolyn George did not prevail. The jury awarded them $3,550 less than DaimlerChrysler offered in trying to settle the case. DaimlerChrysler has petitioned the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to block the fee award.
The petition arrived at the Capitol Nov. 29.
In it defense attorney Harry F. Bell Jr. wrote that Stucky abused his discretion. Bell argued that the award violated public policy by "encouraging unnecessary fee driven litigation and discouraging settlement."
Larry and Carolyn George sued DaimlerChrysler in 2002, complaining that they bought a defective 2000 Dodge Intrepid.
The trial lasted from Nov. 8 to Nov. 12, 2004. The jury awarded the Georges $4,500 for repairs and $2,450 for annoyance and inconvenience.
Later the parties would agree to add $1,800 interest, for a total payment of $8,750. Grubb moved Stucky to award attorney fees against DaimlerChrysler. Stucky heard arguments on the motion Feb. 25. He granted it June 22.
The bill to DaimlerChrysler included $58,950 for 196.5 hours of Grubb's services at $300 an hour, and $61,402.50 for 272.9 hours of co-counsel Cameron McKinney.
It also covered 50.3 hours for Kristina Whiteaker at $175 an hour, 24 minutes for Lisa Green at $225 an hour, and 79.1 hours for paralegal Tina Totten King at $100 an hour. Last, the bill added $5,881.66 in costs.
Stucky wrote that the hourly rates were reasonable and the award was not inconsistent with his prior awards.
He pointed out that through Feb. 11, defense counsel spent 559.65 hours on the case and plaintiff's counsel spent 513.8 hours on it.
In August, DaimlerChrysler asked the Supreme Court of Appeals for a hearing and for an extension of time to pay the bill. The Court granted the extension Sept. 8.
DaimlerChrysler asked for another extension Oct. 14. The Court granted it Oct. 19. On Nov. 7, the West Virginia Auto and Truck Dealers Association and the West Virginia Broadcasters Association asked to file briefs as "amicus curiae," friends of the court.
The requests are pending.