The linked decision this week of the Minnesota Court of Appeals is of interest in at least two ways. First, we have posted at great length about the tendency of Minnesota courts (state and federal) to give attorneys’ fee petitions “haircuts” but we were happy to see the linked decision in which the district court paid the full sum claimed and the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the full fee petition.
And we’re talking $217,209.11 in lawyers’ fees, not chicken feed. Minnesota trial lawyers would be smart to review the decision to see how the law firm, Morrison & Sund, handled its billing so that its fee claim withstood the attacks by the other side.
But the case is also a fine example of an occupational benefit of trial lawyers (as opposed to an occupational hazards, of which there are also many): humility. At least most trial lawyers should, over time, deeply appreciate the quality of humility.
The linked decision comes from Toyota-Lift of Minnesota vs. American Warehouse Systems, et al., a multi-year slugfest with dramatic reversals of fortune.
Plaintiff sued Defendants for some $815,000+ of alleged damages. Defendants, a business and its individual owners, counter-sued Plaintiff (the individuals’ former employer) for unpaid commissions of about $104,000.
After a week-long trial, the trial court decided that both sides claims had merit and, therefore, Defendants had to pay Plaintiff around $711,000 (that is, $815K, offset by $104K). But the $815,000 claim was against a corporate entity that went into bankruptcy and, on appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s off-set (which, effectively, was “robbing Peter to pay Paul”). On remand, the individual defendants put on evidence of their attorneys’ fees spent on the multi-year fight to get the commissions they were owed and, as discussed above, they won 100% of the fees claimed.
Plaintiff’s case, in other words, appears to have gone over time from a $711,000 win (plus costs) to a $321,000+ loss (the unpaid commissions and the attorneys’ fees). If Plaintiff’s counsel gloated over their earlier win, they’re now presumably choking down crow.