BME’s Berg garners $80,000 attorneys’ fees judgment

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Terry P. Gerstbauer and Capitol Speedway, Inc. (“Capitol”) appeal from the trial court’s order on attorneys’ fees. They raise three issues for our review, which we consolidate and restate as whether the trial court abused its discretion in determining the reasonableness of Gerstbauer and Capitol’s attorneys’ fees. On cross-appeal, Stephen W. Styers also challenges the trial court’s award of fees as well as its judgment that he cannot recover on his statutory trespass claim.

Conclusion (slip op. at 24): Affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part.

Key Analysis (slip op. at 24): Under the circumstances, unless Gerstbauer wanted to concede or be defaulted, he had no choice but to continue employing his attorneys throughout this litigation. The amount of fees incurred by both parties in this case appear unreasonable “on their face,” as the trial court recognized. But a proper consideration of Professional Conduct Rule 1.5(a) supports our attorneys’ fee award in this appeal. The trial court abused its discretion in awarding Gerstbauer attorneys’ fees. The court misinterpreted Paragraph 12 of the parties’ lease, and it misapplied Professional Conduct Rule 1.5(a). Accordingly, we must reverse the court’s fee award. However, rather than remand for reconsideration, we hold that Gerstbauer reasonably incurred $79,577.89 in attorneys’ fees, and we direct the trial court to enter a judgment against Styers that includes that sum. We also hold that the issues raised by Styers on cross-appeal are without merit.

About Bose McKinney & Evans LLP

Bose McKinney & Evans LLP is a business law firm, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, serving both publicly held and privately held businesses, governmental entities and high-growth industries. Our clients include Fortune 100 companies, international manufacturers, national and regional financial institutions, agribusinesses, sports teams, university-incubated start-ups, media, utilities, cities and schools, to name a few. We strive to build strong relationships with our clients as key business advisors, to exceed expectations in the quality of our work, to be knowledgeable about our clients’ businesses and sectors, to be responsive to service needs and to continually seek to improve the delivery of client services. Our ultimate focus is on our clients.
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