Engel v. Wolfsohn
Judge Eleanora Ofshtein
Tenants sought a hearing to determine reasonable attorney fees pursuant to an Appellate Term decision that found they were successful in defending a holdover proceeding, thus were entitled to recover attorney fees reasonably incurred in defending the action. An inquest was held and landlord Engel sought to vacate the inquest citing health issues, including having an emergency tolerance test on the date of the hearing. The court noted despite Engel's statements that his prior attorney, Brookstone, was discharged and not authorized to proceed in Engel's absence, he then argued Brookstone's decision to leave and not defend the hearing was due to law office failure. Such inconsistency was unexplained, but the court found the various dates of motion practice put Engel on notice of the impending fees hearing prior to his medical test. It ruled Engel's motion failed to show a meritorious defense sufficient to vacate the default, denying same. Further, tenants, as the prevailing parties, were entitled to an award of legal fees, and the court found their attorney's hourly rates for the work completed reasonable. However, it reduced certain amounts for "ancillary expenses and redundancies," granting tenants $115,002.16.