A recent Law 360 story by Mike Curley, “After ‘Block Billing’ and ‘Paper Dump,’, Attys Net Only $786K” reports that an Arizona federal judge has awarded $786,472 to attorneys representing a man who suffered additional injuries after a fall when his insurer delayed approving surgery, down from the requested $1.04 million as a result of "block billing," a "paper dump" and other failures in their request for fees. U.S. District Judge Susan M. Brnovich also denied Greg Jarman's request for $74,000 in expenses from American Family Insurance Co. in its entirety, saying he failed to itemize the costs and the court will not "do the hard work for him" in separating out items like clothes for one attorney and a hotel room for another.
Jarman's request for fees comes after a jury in September awarded him $4.5 million over delays in care for injuries stemming from an on-the-job fall in 2015. The court later reduced the verdict to $2.8 million. Jarman, who had worked at electrical company Efficient Electric Inc. for more than 10 years before his injury, experienced a severe fall on July 25, 2015, according to court documents, and a couple of weeks later he went to the hospital and was diagnosed with a shoulder sprain and put on limited activity. Jarman's neurologist on Oct. 6 of that year recommended cervical decompression surgery, after his orthopedic surgeon called his case "urgent."
American Family wanted its own doctor, Dr. John Beghin, to examine Jarman before approving the surgery, and he agreed on Nov. 5, 2015, that surgery was necessary. The surgery was performed five days later, and Jarman said the delay caused cognitive injuries. In the order, Judge Brnovich reduced the total fee for several reasons, starting with Jarman's failure to comply with court rules requiring his counsel to confer with American Family's on the fees before submitting his request.
While the judge did not accept American Family's argument that Jarman isn't entitled to fees at all, she did reduce them still further, saying that there is a particularly egregious case of block billing in this case, with one of the attorneys attributing hundreds of hours of work to single line items, leaving the court unable to determine how much time was spent on specific tasks.
The request also does not contain an affidavit as to the tasks that support staff at the firms took on during the case, so the court is unable to determine if the rates for their work are reasonable, the judge wrote, adding some entries from support staff are clerical in nature. Jarman also failed to produce evidence that his attorneys' fee rates are reasonable, the judge wrote, further warranting a reduction to the fee. The attorney fees request also includes entry for work done relating only to dismissed defendants, the judge added