In Mahani v. EDIX Media Group, Inc., (Del. Supr., Sept. 4, 2007), read opinion here, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed a decision of the Chancery Court awarding attorneys’ fees based on a contract provision between the parties to the case. Mahani appealed based on the arguments that the trial court did not: (i) consider the reasonableness of the amount of fees, and (ii) did not give ample weight to the fact that there was only a partial victory in the trial court. The Chief Justice, writing for the Delaware Supreme Court, distinguished the contractual and statutory bases for awarding fees, and reasoned that:
…the reasonableness of attorneys’ fees and other expenses in a contractual fee shifting case “should be assessed by reference to legal services purchased by those fees, not by reference to the degree of success achieved in the litigation.”
The cases Mahani cites are inapposite because they are statutory fee shifting cases, in which the court awarded the prevailing parties’ attorneys’ fees and expenses in proportion to their success as an incentive for other attorneys to prosecute cases that enforce legislative goals. EDIX’s award for the full amount of its attorneys’ fees and other expenses cannot be considered unreasonable because the Chancellor properly weighed all the factors in DLRPC 1.5(a). The Chancellor, we believe, correctly concluded that “[t]he amount involved in litigation and results obtained [were] only two of many factors to be considered,” and, indeed, he placed considerable weight on the time and labor necessary for EDIX to prepare the case for trial.
The trial court’s decision on fees was summarized on my blog here. The trial court’s main opinion was summarized here, in which the Chancery Court quotes from the argot of famed rapper "50 Cent".