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Mobil Oil Corporation v. Maryland Casualty Company

288 Ill.App.3d 743, 681 N.E.2d 552, 224 Ill. Dec. 237 (1st dist. 5th div. 1997)

Words & Phrases

Bad Faith: Attorney Fees

Trial Judge


Appellate Judge



Insurer's two-and-a-half year delay in adequately reserving its rights was vexatious and unreasonable and created a potential conflict of interest entitling additional insured to award of attorney fees.

Fact Summary

The circuit court must consider several factors when calculating reasonable attorney's fees, including: the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the issues, the skill required, the preclusion of other employment necessary to accept the case, the customary fee charged in the community, the amount of money involved in the case, the results obtained, and the attorney's reputation, experience, and ability. Verbaere, 226 Ill.App.3d at 301, 168 Ill.Dec. 353, 589 N.E.2d 753; McHugh v. Olsen, 189 Ill.App.3d 508, 514, 136 Ill.Dec. 855, 545 N.E.2d 379 (1989). The time spent on a case by an attorney is an important factor to consider. Time records, although important, are not conclusive, and the court should carefully [288 Ill.App.3d 759] scrutinize them to determine whether they represent a reasonable expenditure of time in the context of the services rendered. McHugh, 189 Ill.App.3d at 514, 136 Ill.Dec. 855, 545 N.E.2d 379.

        Maryland contends that the award is excessive because the circuit court awarded fees at a rate of $150 per hour, and Maryland's attorneys, who were very experienced, charged only $94 per hour. The fact that Maryland's attorneys charged a lower rate does not make the rate awarded Mobil's attorneys unreasonably high. Courts have awarded comparable rates in other section 155 cases. See, e.g., Verbaere, 226 Ill.App.3d at 302, 168 Ill.Dec. 353, 589 N.E.2d 753 (upholding award of fees at an hourly rate of $175). The circuit court here considered the attorney's experience and the fact that no administrative charges or costs were billed before determining that the rate requested was reasonable. It cannot be said that this finding constituted an abuse of discretion.

        Maryland also disputes the number of hours billed by Mobil's attorneys, noting that its own attorneys billed fewer hours within the same time periods. Maryland does not discuss, however, the fact that it hired three separate law firms to handle the different issues in this case, one each for the Cibulskis lawsuit, the declaratory judgment action, and the attorney's fee hearings. Mobil hired one firm to perform all three functions. Maryland cannot compare the time spent by Mobil's attorneys on three separate claims to services provided by one of Maryland's attorneys on one claim.

        A review of the hearing, the billing statements submitted by Mobil, and Maryland's objections to fees, reveals that the circuit court thoroughly examined the record, considered all the parties' arguments, and evaluated the relevant factors before calculating the attorney's fees. The court did not allow fees for repetitive legal services, and reduced the requested award to eliminate billing hours it found to be excessive. Furthermore, although Maryland claims the amount requested is excessive, it offers no details regarding where or how the fees should be reduced. At no time did Maryland's attorney seek an additional evidentiary hearing, or seek to call any witnesses relative to the attorney's fees. Nor did he suggest any impropriety in the procedure followed by the circuit court in assessing the attorney fee amounts. Accordingly, the court did not abuse its discretion, and the fees awarded must be upheld.

        For the reasons set forth above, the decision of the circuit court must be affirmed on all issues.