Trial Lawyer Jackpot Spotlights Lawsuit Abuse
Lawyers Rake in $143,000 – Client Gets Only $6,950 in Questionable Case
DaimlerChrysler will appeal a recent court decision in West Virginia, in which a judge disregarded a jury verdict and awarded outrageous legal fees to trial lawyers, approximately 20 times greater than the plaintiff’s award
More than 25 percent of the fees that were awarded to the plaintiff lawyers were solely related to their time spent seeking recovery of fees
“This is a prime example of the unpredictability of America’s civil justice system that damages state competitiveness and hurts consumers,” said Steven B. Hantler, Assistant General Counsel, DaimlerChrysler Corporation. “The true victims in this case are the citizens of West Virginia.”
Auburn Hills, Mich., Aug 1, 2005 –
Larry and Carolyn George of Tornado, West Virginia, purchased a new 2000 Dodge Intrepid in 2000. The Georges initially complained of transmission shifting problems.The vehicle was inspected two separate times by DaimlerChrysler technical advisors and no problem was found during either inspection. Despite this, the dealer did replace the transmission control module and gearshift mechanism, and performed other repairs covered under warranty for customer satisfaction.
Nonetheless, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against DaimlerChrysler Corporation claiming breach of implied merchantability, violation of the lemon law and unfair or deceptive acts or practices. The plaintiffs turned down two settlement offers. At the time of trial, the vehicle had 65,000 miles on the odometer.
Eventually, the jury returned a verdict in plaintiffs’ favor on one of the claims (breach of implied warranty), and awarded the Georges $6,950, which was actually lower than the company’s last settlement offer. At the time, the jury specifically did not award attorney’s fees. However, the trial lawyers filed a motion to recoup their fees, and the judge awarded them a sum that is approximately 20 times greater than what the jury awarded the plaintiff – a total of $143,026.66, factored at $300 per hour for attorneys and $175-$225 per hour for associates.
DaimlerChrysler Spokesperson is Available
Steve Hantler is available to discuss this case in the context of lawsuit abuses across the nation and the current legal reform movement making progress nationally and in the states. Hantler is DaimlerChrysler Corporation’s assistant general counsel and Chairman of the American Justice Partnership (AJP), which champions legal reform in the states and is affiliated with the National Association of Manufacturers. A recognized legal reform expert, Hantler is well published in this area, including his provocative Wall Street Journal commentaries, “How to Beat the Trial Bar” and “States Compete to Clear the Tort Bar.”
Related information about the need for legal reform can be found at http://www.americanjusticepartnership.org.