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In the Matter of the : Guardianship of Donald Spagnola

October 28, 2011

IN THE MATTER OF THE : GUARDIANSHIP OF DONALD SPAGNOLA


Civil Appeal from the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division, Case No. 2007 GDP 64.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mary Jane Trapp, J.

Cite as

In re Guardianship of Spagnola,

Judgment: Reversed and remanded.

OPINION

{¶1} Michelle Coggins, guardian of the person and estate of her father, Donald Spagnola, appeals from a judgment of the Probate Division of the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas regarding her request for attorney fees. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand the matter to the trial court for further proceedings.

{¶2} Substantive Facts and Procedural History

{¶3} In April of 2008, the probate court appointed Ms. Coggins guardian of the person and estate of her father, Donald Spagnola, after her sister, Maryellen Grounds, the previous guardian, was removed by the probate court. Ms. Coggins was assisted in her management of guardianship matters such as inventory, accounting, and expenditures, by Attorney Richard L. Goodman. Ms. Coggins knew Attorney Goodman through her husband, who represented him on other matters.

{¶4} On October 27, 2009, Ms. Coggins, through counsel, filed a Motion for Allowance of Fees, requesting a payment of $16,575 to Attorney Goodman for his services in this case, between July 1, 2008 and September 20, 2009. The amount represented 110.5 hours at an hourly rate of $150.

{¶5} Ms. Coggins filed two more motions for attorney fees, on March 22, 2010 and on December 1, 2010, for $2925 and $555, incurred during the periods of October 2009 through February 2010, and March 2010 through November 2010, respectively.

{¶6} On January 11, 2010, the court held a hearing on the attorney fees matter. At the hearing, the court only referred to the October 27, 2009 motion, without noting whether the hearing would address the other two pending motions as well.

{¶7} Ms. Coggins testified she believed the time Attorney Goodman spent on the guardianship was reasonable and was in the best interest of the guardianship. Ms. Coggins' two sisters also participated at the hearing, and they did not lodge objections to the request of attorney fees.

{¶8} On January 12, 2010, the court issued a judgment entry, finding the beneficial services provided by Attorney Goodman had a reasonable value of $11,670. The court, however, gave no indication as to how it arrived at this reduced amount.

Also, it is unclear as to whether this amount was the total amount the court would approve for all three pending motions, or only for the October 27, 2009 motion, as the judgment entry did not identify the motion by date, only that the "matter came ...


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