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Attorney Fees

R.L. Turner Corporation v. Town of Brownsburg (Ind. March 9, 2012)

The Supreme Court clarified that a trial court may permissibly enter an award for attorney fees after it dismisses a claim. The Court first clarified that the issue was procedural, not jurisdictional, as the trial court clearly had the authority to hear the case between the parties. The Court then held that, unlike in federal court, where a procedural rule gives parties 14 days to ask for fees, no specific time limit exists in state court for a party to seek attorney fees. The Court did note that trial courts “must use their discretion to prevent unfairness to parties facing petitions for fees.”

Should Indiana have a trial rule identifying a specific time limit? Such a rule would make sense and give parties some sense of finality. No obvious benefit exists to having no deadline. It will be interesting to see if this case serves as the impetus for an amendment to our trial rules.

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