November 6th, 2017 by Rieders Travis in Attorney's Fees

Krishnan v. Cutler Group, 2017 Pa. Super. LEXIS 766 (October 2, 2017) Bender, P.J.E.  This case involves a building contract and award of attorney’s fees under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.  The trial court found in favor of the homeowners on their Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law claim.  It granted request for prejudgment interest, denied the request for all their attorney’s fees, granted a request for attorney’s fees and costs in part, and otherwise sustained the verdict.  The judgment was affirmed in part, vacated in part and remanded for consideration of attorney’s fees award, consistent with the opinion.

The court has discretion to award attorney’s fees under the UTPCPL.  This also applies to award of costs, including expert fees.  The trial court appropriately awarded expert fees.  Also was proper to award prejudgment interest.  The court has discretion to award prejudgment interest on some claims and not on others.  The homeowner spent a half million dollars to have this home built, and there were many problems.  They had to pay almost $86,000 out of pocket to bring the home in compliance.  Awarding additional fees and costs were not a windfall to the homeowner.  An attorney is not limited by a contingent fee agreement. That is not a ceiling on the recovery of attorney’s fees under a fee-shifting provision of a remedial statute.  The verdict was not against the weight of the evidence either.  There was a breach of implied warranty of habitability and breach of implied warranty of workmanlike construction.  Water infiltration to the house supported the claim for breach of implied warranties as well.  There was no statute of limitations issue.  It is correct that a plaintiff must show justifiable reliance on defendant’s wrongful conduct to bring a cause of action under UTPCPL.  That was satisfied in this case.  Plaintiff alleging violations of the Consumer Protection Law must prove the common law fraud element of justifiable reliance and not all the elements of common law fraud.  The builder had engaged in the practice of deceptive conduct.  In spite of the fact that the hourly rates were reasonable, nothing in the course of this litigation was simple due to the defendant’s uncooperative tactics.  The court placed unreasonable weight on the fact that plaintiffs had a 20% contingency agreement with counsel. The appellate court determined that the trial court abused its discretion in calculating award of attorney’s fees by apparently limiting the award of attorney’s fees based on the contingency agreement.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]



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