Proving Attorney Fees In Compensatory Damages Cases

As in the case of any award of compensatory damages, attorney fees must be proven with reasonable certainty. As a general rule: "(a) the party seeking the fees, whether for him/herself or on behalf of a client, always bears the burden of presenting evidence sufficient for a trial court to render a judgment as to their reasonableness; (b) an appropriate fee is always reasonable charges for the services rendered; (c) a fee is not justified by a mere compilation of hours multiplied by fixed hourly rates or bills issued to the client; (d) a request for fees must specify the services performed, by whom they were performed, and the hourly rates charged; (e) it is incumbent upon the party seeking recovery to present detailed records that contain the relevant facts and computations undergirding the computation of charges; (f) without such records, the reasonableness, vel non, of the fees can be determined only by conjecture or opinion of the attorney seeking the fees and would therefore not be supported by competent evidence." Rauch v. McCall, 134 Md. App. 624 (2000) (discussing proof necessary for award of attorney fees where award is authorized by contract). See also Maxima Corp. v. 6933 Arlington Dev. Ltd. Partnership, 100 Md. App. 441, 453, 641 A.2d 977 (same). The general rule is not inflexible, however. In Milton Co. v. Council of Unit Owners of Bentley Place Condominium, 121 Md. App. 100, 121, 708 A.2d 1047 (1998), aff'd, 354 Md. 264, 729 A.2d 981 (1999), the appellant challenged an award of attorney fees, made by the judge, on the ground that the appellee "never presented any contemporaneous time records to establish how much time its attorneys spent working on the case." This Court affirmed the trial court's determination that such records were unnecessary "because the unrebutted testimony of appellee's expert witness provided a sufficient basis for the award of fees." Id. We explained: "A trial court enjoys a large measure of discretion in fixing the reasonable value of legal services. That amount will not be disturbed unless it is clearly an abuse of discretion." . . . "While time is one of the applicable factors, the record need not contain evidence specifically delineating the number of hours spent by counsel. Because the record itself discloses the nature of the proceedings, it is some evidence of the extent of the attorney's efforts. . . ."Id.