Practicing Careful Time Keeping: Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees Under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL)

June 8, 2021
By Kathleen Mannard
Posted in Litigation

If an attorney works on a plaintiff’s claim raised under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL), they must be careful with their time keeping of billable hours if they want to recover attorneys’ fees. When a plaintiff is successful with their UTPCPL claim, the court may award costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees, in addition to other relief provided under the UTPCPL. 73 Pa.C.S.A. § 201-9.2. The trial court considers multiple mandatory factors in the award of attorneys’ fees, including:

  1. the time and labor required; and
  2. the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved; and
  3. the skill requisite to properly conduct the case; and
  4. the customary charges of the members of the bar for similar services; and
  5. the amount involved in the controversy and the benefits resulting to the clients from the services, including ensuring that there is a sense of proportionality between the award of damages and the award of attorneys’ fees; and
  6. the contingency or certainty of the compensation.

Croft v. P &W Foreign Car Service, Inc., 557 A.2d 18 (Pa. Super. 1989).

After the consideration of the Croft factors, the trial court must then link the fee award to the amount of damages the plaintiff sustained under the UTPCPL and eliminate from the award of attorney fees the efforts of counsel to recover on non-UTPCPL theories. Neal v. Bavarian Motors, Inc., 882 A.2d 1022, 1030-31 (Pa. Super. 2005).

The trial court’s subtraction of attorneys’ fees can drastically reduce the award of fees sustained under the UTPCL claim if an attorney does not carefully record their hours spent on the UTPCPL claim. Attorneys must wisely apportion their time for the time spent on the UTPCPL claims and other claims for relief. UTPCPL and non-UTPCPL claims may be extremely difficult to delineate the time spent where the underlying facts of each cause of action mirror those in the UTPCPL claim. Where such claims are extremely difficult to delineate the time spent, the trial court may still award attorney’s fees under the Croft factors, but counsel should not rely on the court’s discretion to apportion the time spent in their favor. In order to preserve the recovery of attorneys’ fees under a UTPCPL claim, where there are other theories of relief, attorneys should record their time for the UTPCPL claim separately and exclusively from other theories of relief in the case.

If you have any questions about the UTPCPL, please contact Kathleen M. Mannard, Esquire at kmannard@smgglaw.com