**This article is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.**
The American Quarter Horse Association has been ordered by Federal District Judge Mary Lou Robinson to pay $891,387 in attorney fees to the plaintiffs who successfully sued the AQHA for violating antitrust laws. (To read more about the lawsuit, click here.)
Generally, attorney fees are not recoverable under Texas law unless they are permitted by statute or by contract. The federal antitrust statute that the jury found was violated by the AQHA provides that anyone “injured in his business or property by reason of anything forbidden in the antitrust laws…shall recover…a reasonable attorney fee.” Based upon this, the plaintiffs sought nearly $900,000 in attorney fees from the AQHA.
After the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs, the court took the attorney fee issue under consideration. Judge Robinson ordered the plaintiffs to provide their billing records to the AQHA for review. The AQHA chose not to contest the hourly rates charged by the plaintiff’s lawyers, or the number of hours claimed on the bills. Instead, the AQHA argued that because the jury did not award any monetary damages to the plaintiffs, no attorney fees should be allowed.
In her order (read full order here), Judge Robinson found that the AQHA’s position that because plaintiffs recovered no damages they could recover attorney fees “must fail.” The judge found that the violation of the antitrust statutes and the evidence presented by the plaintiffs that the AQHA’s exclusion of cloned animals created a monopoly and de-valued the clones was sufficient injury to entitle them to recover their attorney fees pursuant to the statute. In summary, because the jury found that the AQHA violated the antitrust statutes, Judge Robinson held that the plaintiffs were entitled to attorney fees under those statutes.