How to appeal an award of attorney’s fees in Alabama appellate cases.
There are certain situations where a judge may order a party to a lawsuit to pay the legal fees of the opposing party. In those situations, one of the biggest areas of disagreement can be over what amount qualifies as a reasonable attorney’s fee. After all, it would be unfair for a judge to order someone to pay whatever sum the other party’s attorney said he should pay without some guarantee that the fee was reasonable. While trial judges have a lot of discretion in deciding on an award of legal fees, Alabama appellate courts have set forth several factors that the trial courts have to consider in making their decision.
An award of an attorney’s fee is an appealable judgment. Nizer v. SouthTrust Bank, 887 So. 2d 919, 923 (Ala. Civ. App. 2004). To determine whether an award of an attorney’s fee is reasonable, Alabama appellate courts consider several factors. In Peebles v. Miley, 439 So. 2d 137 (Ala. 1983), the Alabama Supreme Court expanded the list of criteria to be used in determining the value of an attorney’s services. The rules have been further clarified since then by cases such as Van Schaack v. AmSouth Bank, N.A., 530 So.2d 740 (Ala. 1988). The current factors include: “(1) the nature and value of the subject matter of the employment; (2) the learning, skill, and labor requisite to its proper discharge; (3) the time consumed; (4) the professional experience and reputation of the attorney; (5) the weight of his responsibilities; (6) the measure of success achieved; (7) the reasonable expenses incurred; (8) whether a fee is fixed or contingent; (9) the nature and length of a professional relationship; (10) the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services; (11) the likelihood that a particular employment may preclude other employment; and (12) the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances.”
If a judge has ordered you to pay someone else’s attorney’s fee, make sure to ask the court to require the attorney to prove the reasonableness of the requested fee. If you don’t raise an issue about the fee with the trial court, you will usually be precluded from raising the issue in an appeal. If you want to file an appeal over an order to pay someone else’s attorney’s fees, please fill out our online Contact form or call us at (800) 737-3702.
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