BATON ROUGE — A woman who lost a defamation lawsuit against her former employer also received an unfavorable ruling when she challenged the attorneys' fees awarded to the defendant, according to a May 18 opinion filed in the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal.
The appeals court amended a trial court's ruling after the employee, Mary E. Roper, was ordered to pay her former employer’s legal fees.
The 19th Judicial District Court decided that Roper should pay the attorneys' fees and costs after she lost a defamation lawsuit that she had filed against John Chandler Loupe and the Consolidated Governing Body of the City of Baton Rouge and the Parish of East Baton Rouge. The defendants also were granted a special motion to strike.
The defendants subsequently filed a motion for attorneys' fees and were granted $36,643.73. Roper appealed the award and raised four issues.
Roper said the lower court misused its discretion in awarding the attorneys' fees because her defamation lawsuit was never ruled as meritless or baseless.
“As it has already been determined by final judgment that the defendants were the prevailing party on the special motion to strike, we find no abuse of the trial court’s discretion in awarding attorney fees and costs to the defendant,” the appellate court's decision stated.
Roper’s second issue was that the amount of attorneys' fees and costs awarded were “exhorbitant.” The court disagreed, finding that the awarded attorneys' fees and costs as a result of a special motion to strike as well as the affidavit that the defendants provided demonstrated that the amount of legal fees was reasonable.
For the third issue, Roper said that the affidavit included billing errors. But the appellate court ruled that the incorrect number was not included in the total. The court, however, did notice a slight difference and deducted $439.50 from the total amount. The defendants also recognized a billing error on the second invoice. As a result, the appeals court removed an additional $1,201.50 from the total amount.
Finally, Roper claimed that $666.58 in computer-aided legal research costs was excessive. The appeals court agreed, noting that the evidence provided by the law firm lacked important details, including how the costs were incurred. It removed this amount from the final award.
The appeals court removed a total of $2,307.58 from the overall award.