News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Attorneys seek $175K in trial costs

Plaintiff attorneys in James et al vs. PacifiCorp have asked the court to impose $175,402 on the defendant for costs associated with a Phase I trial plaintiffs won in 2023.

On Jan. 8 in Multnomah County Circuit Court, James attorneys filed a statement for costs and disbursements, which they are allowed to recover as the prevailing parties under state law.

The attorneys are led by the firms of Stoll Berne, Keller Rohrback, and Edelson PC, which the notice said have been working out of their own pockets since taking on the case in 2020.

The bulk of costs included $91,634 for sending out notice of the suit to class members, and $81,676 for transcriptions of the 38 days of trial proceedings. Smaller expenses included summonses, court notices, filing fees and witness fees.

The court must still approve the amount, which must meet the state’s standard of “reasonable and necessary” expenses associated with the trial.

The filing said the request was more than reasonable on the grounds that attorneys are not seeking payment for the “tens of thousands of hours” they have spent on the case. The request also does not include the costs of witness depositions and expert testimony fees, which attorneys said were even higher than the requested amount.

As of press time, a hearing to consider the matter had not been scheduled.

Currently parties in the suit are undertaking a Phase II trial scheduled through Jan 17.

PacifiCorp was found liable June 12, 2023, for negligently causing the Santiam, South Obenchain, Echo Mountain Complex and 242 fires on Sept. 7, 2020. So far $94.4 million has been awarded to 17 plaintiffs, and Phase II is under way to determine damages for roughly 5,000 remaining class members.

The $94.4 judgment was officially imposed Dec. 22, 2023, in an order signed by Judge Steffan Alexander. Plaintiffs had requested the order in a motion filed in August of 2023, and the matter was argued during a hearing that October.

The order set post-judgment interest at 9% per annum  for unpaid damages to be calculated from the date of the order. Interest was also set at 9% for judgments yet to be awarded for the remainder of the class, to be calculated from the dates of the respective orders imposing judgments.

PacifiCorp is able to delay payment while it appeals the Phase I verdict, though interest would still be calculated from the date of the order until the judgment is satisfied.

The order additionally awarded plaintiff attorneys costs and disbursements according to state statutes, prompting the Jan. 8 filing.

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