HARRISBURG — The state Superior Court recently denied The Altman Law Firm's appeal of the amount of legal fees it was awarded from a client, claiming that the appeal was untimely.
The firm argued that surgery for attorney Jonathan Altman soon after the trial constituted extenuating circumstances, with which the court disagreed in its May 31 decision.
The Altman Law Firm sued its former client V.L. Laurie Williams after she allegedly failed to pay legal fees owed to the law firm. A panel of arbitrators found in favor of the law firm for $15,000, which was less than half of what was originally requested by the firm.
Altman then appealed the arbitration award to the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, which led to a bench trial in which the court found in favor of the law firm but reduced the award even further to $6,400.
The first appeal for post-trial relief was dismissed for not being filed in a timely manner, but after that motion requesting post-trial relief nunc pro tunc was denied, the new timely appeal followed.
In the new appeal, Altman argued that trial court made a mistake when it denied permission to file a post-trial motion. It was argued that nunc pro tunc relief is an applicable exception in this case to the general rule that deadlines are absolute.
Altman also argued that such relief should be available in this case because the late timing was due to “nonnegligent circumstances" and that "the required filing was made shortly after the deadline expired, and the opposing party was not prejudiced by the delay."
The firm asserted that the deadlines were missed because its attorney, Jonathan Altman, was incapacitated by hip surgery shortly after the end of the trial.
Because of the surgery, the firm argued, Altman was not able to return to his office until the deadline for filing post-trial motions had expired. The court responded by saying that while the attorney was absent from his office for an extended period of time, since he still failed to make arrangements to cover his professional obligations, nunc pro tunc relief was not appropriate.
The court also determined, with no argument from the firm, that the hip surgery was not an emergency procedure and was known about ahead of time.