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Miles & Stockbridge: English’s attorneys’ fees claim unreasonably high

Donald E. English Jr.

Donald E. English Jr.

Miles & Stockbridge PC should not be on the hook for nearly $800,000 in attorneys’ fees being requested by a former equity principal who won a jury award against the firm, according to court filings.

Donald E. English Jr., who was awarded $231,000 following a jury trial in June, filed a motion seeking $776,000 in attorneys’ fees from Miles & Stockbridge, alleging the firm used a “scorched earth” defense strategy and refused to entertain numerous settlement offers, causing English to rack up such exorbitant fees.

But Miles & Stockbridge, in a response filed Tuesday in Baltimore City Circuit Court, asked a judge to either deny the motion or substantially lower the attorneys’ fees for what it describes as an employment contract case that lasted 11 months, involved two parties, did not have any counterclaims and had less than 125 “substantive” docket entries.

“(What) English seeks is astronomical when compared to awards in similar, and even much more complex and much longer cases,” attorneys for Miles & Stockbridge wrote.

The firm is represented by Ward B. Coe III and Mark S. Saudek, partners at Gallagher, Evelius & Jones LLP in Baltimore.

Now a non-equity partner at Jackson Lewis PC in Baltimore, English resigned from Miles & Stockbridge in July 2017 after 13 years with the firm, the last four as equity principal. English claimed after he resigned, Miles & Stockbridge reduced his salary and “clawed back” nearly $60,000 the firm had paid him, according. The firm also refused to pay English for his work on the last three days of the job as well as his salary and benefits through the end of the month and any prorated bonuses, according to his lawsuit.

The jury’s award in June included treble damages. Miles & Stockbridge filed a notice of appeal last month after a judge denied post-trial motions filed by the firm seeking to set aside or reduce the verdict.

English is requesting his old firm pay $775,771 in legal fees and other costs for the more than 1,600 hours his two attorneys, Tonya Baña and Kenneth Ravenell, spent on the case. The litigation may have “proceeded like any other garden-variety wage dispute,” the plaintiff’s motion states, but Miles & Stockbridge complicated the case.

“As a result of Miles & Stockbridge’s misleading and evasive discovery tactics and scorched earth litigation strategy, Mr. English was required to perform exhaustive legal research and further fact investigation outside the formal discovery process,” the motion states.

But Coe and Saudek countered English “greatly expanded discovery and significantly limited the possibility of settlement” by including counts of fraud, unjust enrichment and conversion in his second amended complaint, all of which were dismissed before trial. English has filed a cross appeal on those three claims.

The hourly rate of $850 requested by Ravenell was far higher than the market rate for employment litigation in Baltimore and double the rates posted in Maryland federal court guidelines, according to the defense motion. Ravenell also was an “eleventh-hour” addition to English’s legal team that led both Baña and Ravenell to overlap billed hours for depositions, hearings and other proceedings, the motion states.

Miles & Stockbridge also cites recordkeeping errors, including double-billed entries and entries that cover “implausibly long periods of time,” as well as inconsistencies in time billed by English’s expert witness.

Baña, in an email Wednesday, rebutted Miles & Stockbridge’s claims.

“As Miles & Stockbridge has done throughout this litigation, its opposition to Mr. English’s motion for fees and costs mischaracterizes the pertinent facts and relies on non-binding or superseded cases to support positions that are directly contradicted by controlling authority,” Baña said in an emailed statement.

“Defense counsel has not made a serious effort to refute our account of the facts because they know they can’t,” Baña said, adding Miles & Stockbridge not releasing its own billing records is “telling.”

A Miles & Stockbridge spokeswoman Wednesday declined further comment on the filing “out of respect for the legal process.”

“We remain confident in our case and the appeal process,” she said.

The case is Donald E. English, Jr. vs Miles & Stockbridge PC, 24C17004438.

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