Ruth denies plaintiff's motion to reconsider attorneys' fees

Amelia Flood Sep. 14, 2009, 4:17am


A Madison County judge denied a personal injury plaintiff's pro se motion to reconsider attorneys' fees awarded to two law firms that represented him in two different trials involving the same rear-end accident suit.

On Friday, Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth reiterated comments he had made at an earlier hearing as he denied the motion, telling plaintiff Walter Spearman he understood that he wasn't happy with the verdict of the second jury that awarded him for injuries sustained in a 2002 rear-end accident in Edwardsville.

"I understand that you are not happy about your verdict," Ruth said. "It's an expensive proposition to go to trial."

Spearman was originally awarded just over $62,000 in the first trial of the suit. That verdict was later overturned by an appellate court because the jury only awarded Spearman damages for his medical bills.

The case was remanded to Madison County for consideration of damages only.

Prior to the second trial, Spearman's original attorney, Robert Emonds, withdrew. Rodney Caffey and Daniel Coleman of LakinChapman took over as Spearman's counsel. They secured a court order prior to the trial stipulating that $62,000 would be awarded for the medical bills.

Spearman's claims were rigorously opposed by defendant Michael Sunley's attorney Stephen Mudge during the second trial in May of this year.

That jury awarded Spearman just under $124,000.

According to statements made by Caffey and Edmonds during a July hearing on the attorneys fees matter, both said their law firms had agreed that Edmonds' firm would be paid out of the monies awarded to LakinChapman for fees.

Caffey's firm requested $41,000 in fees and $13,000 for advance litigation costs.

At the July hearing, Ruth trimmed that amount by cutting out certain advance litigation costs, to the displeasure of the attorneys involved.

Spearman had filed a motion opposing that award in the July hearing, arguing that the attorneys fees for Caffey should only come out of the $62,000 that was added on top of the stipulated $62,000 because that had been awarded in the previous trial.

Ruth disagreed, citing the fact that LakinChapman sought the order stipulating the $62,000 and repeated that at Friday's hearing.

"The defense didn't want to give you a dime," Ruth told Spearman. "These gentlemen did a fine job."

After denying Spearman's motion, Ruth directed attorneys for Sunley to make arrangements to pay Caffey and Emonds.

The case was Madison case number 04-L-007.

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