Governor Signs Law Setting Factors for Determining Attorney Fees and Capping Certain Attorney Fees Awards
On December 7, 2011, Governor Walker signed a law setting forth the factors a court must consider in determining the reasonableness of attorney fees. In certain actions, courts may grant reasonable attorney fees to a prevailing party. Courts also resolve disputes regarding the reasonableness of fees billed by attorneys. Under Wisconsin law, courts analyze the reasonableness of attorney fees by analyzing 12 factors, incorporated from federal caselaw. See Kolupar v. Wilde Pontiac Cadillac, Inc., 2004 WI 112 ¶ 30, 275 Wis. 2d 1, 683 N.W.2d 58 (adopting methodology of Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 429 (1983)). The new act creates Wis. Stat. § 814.045, which codifies these 12 factors and includes additional factors for a court to consider as well.
Further, under new Wis. Stat. § 814.045(2)(a), in any action where compensatory damages are awarded, a court must presume that attorney fees do not exceed three times the amount of compensatory damages, but a court may determine that a greater amount is reasonable after considering the statutory factors. In actions where a court awards relief other than compensatory damages, the court must base any attorney fee award on these same factors.
The new law is effective December 21, 2011.