A recent Law.com story by Aleeza Furman, “Defendants’ Late Motion Costs Them An Over $130K Attorney Fees Award”, reports that a late motion in a long-running contract dispute lost defendants $130,620 in attorney fees. The Pennsylvania Superior Court threw out an order granting the fees because the defendants had filed their motion more than 30 days after the trial court entered its final order in the matter.
The three-judge panel rejected the argument that the plaintiff’s pursuit of an appeal extended the window in which the defense could seek attorney fees. “The lesson is to file for fees early and often,” solo practitioner Joseph Caprara said. Caprara represented the defendants, Skippack Building Corp. and its shareholders, BS Trust, EB Trust, JE Trust and SJ Trust.
Plaintiff Blue Haven Pools, represented by Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin’s Mark Himsworth, argued that the trial court had lacked jurisdiction to grant the attorney fees because the defendants’ motion was untimely filed. Blue Haven contended that the defendants filed their motion approximately three months after the court entered its judgment in a garnishment action between the two parties.
The defendants, however, argued the time limit to seek fees had not yet expired because an appeal had been in the works. While the trial court entered its judgment in the garnishment action Jan. 23, 2017, the Superior Court ruled on the matter April 3, 2017, and Skippack Building filed its motion April 20, 2017, according to the opinion. “When we sought counsel fees our argument was, ‘it wasn’t over,’” Caprara said. “Theoretically, it’s possible for Blue Haven to file another appeal.”
But the Superior Court ruled otherwise. “Skippack had 30 days from the date of the final order to file a motion for counsel fees, and an appeal does not extend the time period for the motion to be filed,” Judge Megan Sullivan wrote. The court held that it was constrained to reverse the trial court’s order granting attorney fees.