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Attorney Fee Awards in Woodland Hills Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Cases Referred to in Sullivan v. Papparlardo

Blogs from March, 2012

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When faced with a decision to hire an attorney‚ you may question how much you have to pay in fees. If you are going through a bankruptcy‚ you may feel that you cannot afford an attorney.

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Our experienced Woodland Hills bankruptcy attorneys are reasonable and understand what you are going through. When filing for bankruptcy in Lost Angeles‚ there are many decisions you need to make but none are as important as the attorney you hire.

Sullivan v. Papparlardo is a case that illustrates the importance of hiring the right attorney. The central issue is what are reasonable attorney fees in a bankruptcy proceeding.

The Sullivan’s (“Debtor’s”) were filing bankruptcy under chapter 13. They hired Berliner (“Attorney”) to represent them and file all of the required paperwork. The attorney estimated that the court costs and legal fees. Upon signature of the retainer agreement‚ the debtor’s paid the amount attorney requested upfront. Attorney completed the Chapter 13 plan which was approved by the bankruptcy court‚ but later filed a request for a substantial amount in additional attorney’s fees and expenses. Pappalardo (“Trustee”) was appointed by the court as trustee in this case‚ objected to this application for additional funds filed by the attorney on the grounds that this request was excessive.

There are many things to be taken into account when establishing attorney’s fees. The court in this case relies on a statute governing the area of attorney’s fees which is 11 U.S.C. 330(a)(4)(B). The standard used in assessing the reasonableness of attorney fee awards is that it must be in line with the “benefit and necessity” of the services rendered. Things the court takes into consideration in determining this are: nature‚ importance and complexity of the case; time the attorney spent on the case; whether the billing rate was reasonable; and the expertise of the attorney.

Where cases begin simple and become more complex‚ attorneys are allowed to raise the costs to compensate for the changing complexity of the case. The court, in this case, found that this Chapter 13 bankruptcy was relatively straightforward and did not warrant the excessive award the attorney was asking for.

The court here looked at the type of work the attorney and his staff were doing and the hourly rate charged in the bankruptcy paperwork and found them to be acceptable. However‚ the court found that the attorney was billing clients for an excessive number of hours. The rule governing this is that only the number of hours spent productively counts in assessing attorney fees. Therefore‚ time spent unnecessarily doing duplicative work or tasks should not be included in the determination of attorney fees.

Attorney argued several things that made this bankruptcy case extraordinarily different from another chapter 13 bankruptcies; however‚ the court here found that none of the evidence the attorney provided was sufficient to validate the increase in his fees.

Thus‚ the court found that the attorney could have properly and diligently represented the debtors' interest in their chapter 13 bankruptcy without spending the large amount of hours claimed. Because of this finding‚ the court rejected the attorney’s application for additional funds.

The attorneys at Nader‚ Naraghi & Woodcock‚ APLC know about the burden of mounting debt and we have the experience to help you get the relief you deserve at a reasonable cost from an attorney you can trust.

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy‚ contact L. A. bankruptcy attorneys at Cal West Law to schedule your free consultation. Call (818) 446-1334

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