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Dallas Court of Appeals Holds Attorney's Fees Must Be Segregated

In its July 11, 2012 opinion issued in In re B.N.L.-B., the Dallas Court of Appeals reversed the amount of attorney’s fees awarded to the Appellee Logan, remanding the matter to the trial court for further proceedings. Represented on appeal by Michelle May O’Neil, Appellant Aguirre successfully argued that the trial court erred in awarding fees because they were not properly segregated.

To recover attorney’s fees under Texas law, a party must segregate fees between claims for which fees can be recovered and claims for which they cannot. The party seeking to recover the fees has the burden of proof. If a trial court awards attorney’s fees based upon evidence of unsegregated fees it will be reversed on appeal.

Here, Logan failed to segregate her fees that the Court determined to be recoverable under a contractual agreement from those fees that were unrecoverable. Because she did not provide evidence of how the fees were segregated or delineated and because the record did not show how the trial court reached its decision as to the amount of fees awarded to Logan, the Dallas Court of Appeals sent this issue back to the trial court.

The principle of segregating fees is important in family law cases like B.N.L.-B. where there are multiple claims pending at one time (the trial proceedings in B.N.L.-B. included the registration of a foreign order, an enforcement action, and a suit affecting the parent-child relationship) and where there are more than two parties involved in a proceeding.