The Kentucky Court of Appeals held in a December 2015 decision that a trial court may make an equitable award of attorney’s fees in a case in which the jury awards punitive damages. Mo-Jack Distributor, LLC v. Tamarack Snacks, LLC, 476 S.W.3d 900 (Ky. App. 2015). The Court held such an award is particularly appropriate when the damages awarded are nominal or when the prevailing party’s attorney’s fees far exceed the punitive damages awarded.
The Court further listed the factors that a trial court is to consider when making an equitable award of attorney’s fees: (1) the amount and character of services rendered; (2) the labor, time, and trouble involved; (3) the nature and importance of the litigation or business in which the services were rendered; (4) the responsibility imposed; (5) the amount of money or the value of property affected by the controversy, or involved in the employment; (6) the skill and experience called for in the performance of services; (7) the professional character and standing of the attorney(s); and (8) the result secured.
Presumably such a situation constitutes one of the very limited circumstances in which a trial court may make an equitable fee award. The Kentucky Supreme Court held in a 2014 decision that such an award is permissible only “when the very integrity of the court is in issue.” Bell v. Com., Cabinet for Health and Family Services, 423 S.W.3d 742 (Ky. 2014).
Note: The foregoing post includes commentary reprinted from the forthcoming 2016 supplement to 7 Philipps & Kramer, Rules of Civil Procedure Annotated, 6th ed. (Kentucky Practice Series), by David V. Kramer, with permission of the author and publisher. Copyright (c) 2016 Thomson Reuters. For more information about this publication click here.
« Back to news