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Powers v. Brown

Court of Appeals of Michigan

June 18, 2019

MIKA POWERS, doing business as SWEET RIDES AUTO, Plaintiff/Counterdefendant-Appellee,
v.
KELLY RAY BROWN, Defendant/Counterplaintiff-Appellant.

Page 734

         Montcalm Circuit Court. LC No. 2015-020295-CZ.

         COUNSEL:

          For MIKA POWERS, Plaintiff-Counter Defendant-Appellee Retained: RYAN CADE VILLET.

          For KELLY RAY BROWN, Defendant-Counter Plaintiff-Appellant: THEODORE J WESTBROOK.

          Judges: Before: K. F. KELLY, P.J., and FORT HOOD and REDFORD, JJ.

          OPINION

Page 735

          [328 Mich.App. 619] Per Curiam.

          Defendant/counterplaintiff, Kelly Ray Brown, appeals as of right the trial court's order awarding him attorney fees in the amount of $17,469.54 after he successfully prevailed on a statutory conversion claim against plaintiff/counterdefendant, Mika Powers, doing business as Sweet Rides Auto. We vacate the trial court order regarding attorney fees and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

          I. BACKGROUND

          Brown purchased a pickup truck from Sweet Rides Auto in 2014. In 2015, after Sweet Rides Auto claimed that defendant had missed a monthly payment, it repossessed the truck, sold it at auction, and applied the sale proceeds to the loan. Sweet Rides Auto filed suit against Brown in an attempt to recover the remaining loan balance from Brown, but Brown counterclaimed that Sweet Rides Auto had wrongfully converted the truck. At a bench trial, the trial court found that Sweet Rides Auto had wrongfully converted the truck and awarded a judgment in favor of Brown in the amount of $10,122, plus attorney fees and costs.

          Brown subsequently filed a motion seeking an attorney fee award of $30,347.50 based on his counsel's hourly rate and hours billed. After hearing Brown's motion, the trial court found that the hourly rate and hours billed were reasonable but that the total amount of fees billed was too high in relation to the " best case" [328 Mich.App. 620] outcome that had been possible for Brown at trial. The court concluded that because defense counsel had billed on a contingent basis, an appropriate award was 1/3 of the maximum amount that could be recovered ($52,983). By the trial court's calculation, 1/3 of $52,983 was $17,659.23, so the trial court awarded Brown that amount in attorney fees. The trial court later entered an order awarding reasonable attorney fees to Brown in the amount of $17,469.54.[1] Brown now appeals as of right.

          II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

          We review for an abuse of discretion a trial court's award of attorney fees. Smith v Khouri,481 Mich. 519, 526; 751 N.W.2d 472 (2008) (opinion by Taylor, C.J). " An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court's decision is outside the range of reasonable and principled outcomes." Pirgu v United Servs Auto Ass'n,499 Mich. 269, 274; 884 N.W.2d 257 (2016). " A trial ...


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