Cottini v. Berggren

In Cottini v. Berggren,[1] the supreme court held that former agents may be entitled to attorney’s fees for defending against their former principal’s challenge to the agent’s accounting of costs of their former guardianship-relationship. Cottini acted as Berggren’s guardian after Berggren suffered a traumatic brain injury. After Berggren recovered, Berggren objected to Cottini’s accounting of fees and costs. Cottini hired an attorney to defend him from the objection, and the parties eventually settled. After settlement, Cottini filed a motion requesting attorney’s fees incurred during the defense. The superior court denied the motion, concluding that section 13.26.291(d) of the Alaska Statutes governed fee-shifting in a guardianship case and that it only would only allow award of attorney’s fees if Berggren’s challenge to the accounting had been malicious or frivolous, which it was not.  The supreme court determined that section 13.26.291(d), various other sections of the Alaska Statutes, and Alaska R. Civ. P. 82 did not apply to the case so they neither prevented nor justified an award of attorney’s fees.  It elaborated that the under the common law of agency a principal has a duty to indemnify his agent for expenditures beneficial to the principal. The supreme court explained that accordingly equity and public policy weigh in favor of allowing a recovery of attorney’s fees if factors indicate the expenditures were beneficial to the principal. The supreme court specified these factors include the amount of attorney’s fees, the relative amount of assets in question, the merits of the parties’ arguments, the extent that the defense was related to the best interests of the principal, and the duration, extent, and expense of the defense. Reversing and remanding for consideration of these factors, the supreme court held that a former agent in a guardianship relationship may be entitled to attorney’s fees for defending against his former principal’s challenge to the agent’s accounting.

 

 

 

[1] 420 P.3d 1255 (Alaska 2018).

Cottini v. Berggren

In Cottini v. Berggren,[1] the supreme court held that former agents may be entitled to attorney’s fees for defending against their former principal’s challenge to the agent’s accounting of costs of their former guardianship-relationship. Cottini acted as Berggren’s guardian after Berggren suffered a traumatic brain injury. After Berggren recovered, Berggren objected to Cottini’s accounting of fees and costs. Cottini hired an attorney to defend him from the objection, and the parties eventually settled. After settlement, Cottini filed a motion requesting attorney’s fees incurred during the defense. The superior court denied the motion, concluding that section 13.26.291(d) of the Alaska Statutes governed fee-shifting in a guardianship case and that it only would only allow award of attorney’s fees if Berggren’s challenge to the accounting had been malicious or frivolous, which it was not.  The supreme court determined that section 13.26.291(d), various other sections of the Alaska Statutes, and Alaska R. Civ. P. 82 did not apply to the case so they neither prevented nor justified an award of attorney’s fees.  It elaborated that the under the common law of agency a principal has a duty to indemnify his agent for expenditures beneficial to the principal. The supreme court explained that accordingly equity and public policy weigh in favor of allowing a recovery of attorney’s fees if factors indicate the expenditures were beneficial to the principal. The supreme court specified these factors include the amount of attorney’s fees, the relative amount of assets in question, the merits of the parties’ arguments, the extent that the defense was related to the best interests of the principal, and the duration, extent, and expense of the defense. Reversing and remanding for consideration of these factors, the supreme court held that a former agent in a guardianship relationship may be entitled to attorney’s fees for defending against his former principal’s challenge to the agent’s accounting.

 

 

 

[1] 420 P.3d 1255 (Alaska 2018).