Total Recycling Services of Connecticut, Inc. v. Connecticut Oil Recycling Services, LLC
When certain claims provide for a party's recovery of contractual attorneys' fees but others do not, a party is nevertheless entitled to a full recovery of reasonable attorneys' fees if an apportionment is impracticable because the claims arise from a common factual nucleus and are intertwined. Whitewing Environmental Corporation and Total Recycling Services of Connecticut, Inc. brought this action against Connecticut Oil Recycling Services, LLC, alleging breach of three contracts and unjust enrichment. The defendants responded with a multi-count counterclaim. The jury found for the plaintiffs on their unjust enrichment claim alone. On the counterclaim, the jury concluded that the plaintiffs breached all three contracts, but awarded damages only for breach of an equipment contract, the only contract without an attorneys' fee provision. The trial court's denial of the defendant's motion for attorneys' fees was reversed on appeal. On remand, the court, Jones, J., invited the defendant to make a showing identifying which fees were incurred in prosecuting its breach of contract counterclaim for contracts providing for attorneys' fees. The defendant renewed its motion for fees, maintaining that apportionment was impossible, analogizing the case to the 2006 Appellate Court case of Heller v. D.W. Fish Realty Co., and seeking an unapportioned recovery of fees because the claims depended on the same facts. The trial court, Bear, J., denied the motion. A divided Appellate Court upheld the denial. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment. The Appellate Court majority improperly concluded that the trial court correctly determined that apportionment of fees under the Appellate Court's 2000 decision in Jacques All Trades Corp. v. Brown was the law of the case. Judge Bear's analysis of the issue was premised on an incorrect construction of Judge Jones' decision. Judge Jones did not decisively determine that the fees were apportionable, but invited a further submission regarding the appropriate fees, with supporting legal authority. The defendant did this in claiming that the appropriate amount of fees was the entire amount. The Supreme Court confirmed the standard stated in the first line above, previously applied by lower courts and federal district courts in Connecticut. On remand, the trial court is to apply that standard to determine attorneys' fees and appellate attorneys' fees. An attorneys' fee provision silent with respect to appellate attorneys' fees, encompasses such fees absent contractual language to the contrary.