MIKA POWERS, doing business as SWEET RIDES AUTO, Plaintiff/Counterdefendant-Appellee,
KELLY RAY BROWN, Defendant/Counterplaintiff-Appellant.
Montcalm Circuit Court LC No. 2015-020295-CZ
Before: K. F. Kelly, P.J., and Fort Hood and Redford, JJ.
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 and remand for
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
purchased a pickup truck from Sweet Rides Auto in 2014. In
2015, after Sweet Rides Auto claimed that defendant 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.
subsequently filed a motion seeking an attorney fee award of
$30, 347.50 on the basis of 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 the total amount of fees billed was too high
in relation to the "best case" outcome that had
been possible for Brown at trial. The court found that
because defense counsel had billed on a contingent basis, an
appropriate award was one-third of the maximum amount that
could be recovered ($52, 983). By the trial court's
calculation, one-third of $52, 983 was $17, 659.23, so the
trial court awarded Brown $17, 659.23 in attorney fees. The
trial court later entered an order awarding reasonable
attorney fees to Brown in the amount of $17,
469.54. Brown now appeals as of right.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review a trial court's award of attorney fees for an
abuse of discretion. 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
court necessarily abuses its discretion when it makes an
error of law." Id.
appeal, Brown challenges the amount of the attorney fees
awarded and criticizes the trial court for not adhering to
Michigan Supreme Court precedent in its attorney fee award.
trial court awarded Brown attorney fees pursuant to MCL
600.2919a, which provides, in pertinent part:
(1) A person damaged as a result of either or both of the
following may recover 3 times the amount of actual damages
sustained, plus costs and reasonable attorney fees:
(a)Another person's stealing or embezzling property or
converting property to the other ...