Raymond J. Seigler, representing the City of Bayonne and two individual police officers, successfully appealed a six figure attorney’s fees award entered against the defendants. In this matter, the plaintiff and his father sued the defendants in New Jersey Superior Court, Hudson Vicinage alleging violations of their civil rights and New Jersey law because the defendant police officers purportedly used excessive force when instituting the lawful arrest of the plaintiff.
At trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff on one of the claims asserted in the complaint, concluding that one of the officers used excessive force and the other failed to intervene. However, the jury found that the plaintiff did not sustain any significant injury; thus, it awarded him just $1 in damages. Despite this nominal success, at the conclusion of the trial, the court awarded plaintiff’s counsel over $106,000 in attorneys fees, which represented the full quantum of fees expended in pursuit of plaintiffs’ successful and unsuccessful claims.
Mr. Seigler substituted in as counsel for the defendants and filed an appeal of the attorney’s fee award. In a rare finding that the trial court abused its discretion when considering whether to award counsel fees, the Appellate Division reversed the fee award. Consistent with Mr. Seigler’s arguments, the Appellate Division instructed the trial court that, on remand, it must reduce the counsel fee award to account for plaintiff’s limited success at trial.