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McNiff v. Mazda Motor of America, Inc.

Illinois Appellate Court
892 N.E.2d 598 (2008)


Facts

Courtney McNiff (plaintiff) received a Mazda RX-8 from her grandfather as a gift. McNiff’s grandfather had purchased the car from Sam Leman Mazda (defendant) for $30,854. The car quickly developed mechanical difficulties and continued to malfunction even after an engine replacement. McNiff hired two attorneys, Daniel Deneen and William Hutul, to represent her in an action to recover damages for the car. McNiff’s agreement with Deneen and Hutul included a contingency-fee agreement that said McNiff would pay 30 percent of any award to her attorneys. McNiff sued Sam Leman Mazda and Mazda Motor of America, Inc. (Mazda) (defendant) under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act for multiple warranty breaches. The parties settled with Mazda repurchasing the car from McNiff for $30,000. About a year after the parties settled, Deneen and Hutul filed a petition seeking $13,650 and $14,755, respectively, for attorney fees from the defendants. Deneen sought an additional $1,875 in fees for his preparation of the fee petition. Mazda argued that McNiff’s contingency-fee agreement capped the fees that her attorneys could receive at one-third of the settlement amount, or $10,000. Additionally, Mazda argued that the attorneys’ time sheets were insufficiently detailed and their fees unreasonably high. The trial court accepted the hours represented on the attorneys’ time sheets, set their hourly rates slightly lower than the petition asked, and ultimately awarded Deneen $13,530 and Hutul $12,485. Mazda filed a motion to reconsider. McNiff also filed a motion to reconsider asking the court to award a greater amount for the time her attorneys spent filing the fee petition and the motion to reconsider. The trial court denied both motions to reconsider. McNiff and Mazda appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Turner, J.)

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