Legal Fees Expert Witness Angers Judge

Debra Cassens Weiss reports Attorney Fee Expert Angers Judge, ABA Journal, 11/19/07.

A Philadelphia judge has chastised an expert witness for his testimony challenging attorney fees in two cases, including the class action case against Wal-Mart for unpaid overtime. In opinions issued last Wednesday, Judge Mark Bernstein criticized the defense witness, John Marquess of Legal Cost Control Inc., for testimony in the Wal-Mart case and in a successful class action suit against Kia Motors America Inc., the Legal Intelligencer reports. Bernstein awarded $45.7 million in attorney fees and $3.6 million in expenses in the Wal-Mart case.

In the Kia case, Bernstein said Marquess gave a biased review that was ‘intentionally factually restricted.’ Bernstein had awarded $4.125 million in fees in the suit, which had contended brakes on 1995 to 2001 Kia Sephias needed to be replaced about every 5,000 miles. The jury ordered Kia to pay $5.6 million, or $600 each, to the 9,402 class members. Bernstein had been ordered by a Pennsylvania superior court to write an opinion justifying the fees.

‘The professional witness testifying without integrity, saying whatever their masters pay them to say, makes a mockery of the integrity of our system of justice,’ Bernstein wrote. ‘The court rejects the concept that an expert is nothing more than a hired gun who applies ‘expertise’ to whatever material is provided by counsel without any responsibility to request available information reasonably required to render an honest, valid opinion.’