The Third Department, over a partial dissent, reversing Supreme Court, determined a hearing must be held to assess the validity of an $80,000 attorney’s fee in a foreclosure proceeding. Supreme Court granted the fee without a hearing and without making the requisite findings:
While a hearing on counsel fees is not required when a determination can be made on the papers alone … , this is not the case here inasmuch as plaintiff’s “affidavit of services rendered . . . fail[ed] to set forth counsel’s experience, ability, and reputation, and fail[ed] to detail the prevailing hourly rate for similar legal work in the community” … . Furthermore, the itemized legal bills submitted by plaintiff are insufficient to assess the reasonableness of the fees in the absence of proof showing “the necessity of the services rendered, the benefit achieved, the difficulty of the issues involved, or any other of the considerations normally involved in calculating [counsel] fees” … .
Notwithstanding Supreme Court’s discretion in this realm and the fact that the court awarded plaintiff an amount less than what was sought, before an award of counsel fees may be fixed, “the court must possess sufficient information upon which to make an informed assessment of the reasonable value of the legal services rendered” … . In our view, Supreme Court did not have before it sufficient information to summarily determine the reasonableness of the sought counsel fees. Furthermore, “to permit intelligent review, a court must provide a concise but clear explanation of its reasons for the [counsel] fee award” … . Although Supreme Court, in its order, recited the necessary factors relevant to determining the reasonableness of counsel fees, it did not provide a clear explanation for its ultimate counsel fee award. Rather, the $80,000 awarded by Supreme Court appears to derive merely from adding up all of the fees attributable to one of the attorneys who represented plaintiff — i.e., the attorney who submitted the affidavit of services — without regard to the necessary factors used to reach an award of counsel fees and with insufficient information in light of the block billing and vague and redacted time entries in the legal invoices. Accordingly, given that plaintiff’s proof was insufficient for Supreme Court to fix an award of counsel fees on the papers alone and that defendants were never afforded an opportunity in the first instance to challenge the reasonableness of the requested counsel fees, the matter must be remitted for an evidentiary hearing. Lehman Commercial Paper, Inc. v Point Prop. Co., LLC, 2017 NY Slip Op 00358, 3rd Dept 1-19-17
ATTORNEYS (FEES, FORECLOSURE, HEARING NECESSARY TO ASSESS ATTORNEY’S FEES, CRITERIA EXPLAINED)/FORECLOSURE (ATTORNEY’S FEES, HEARING NECESSARY TO ASSESS ATTORNEY’S FEES, CRITERIA EXPLAINED)