In Stevens v. Food Lion, LLC, A17A0153 (June 8, 2007 Ga. App.) the Court upheld the award of attorney's fees to a defendant pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-68. The defendant had made an offer of settlement, which the plaintiff rejected. At trial, the plaintiff then recovered less than 75% of the amount offered by the defendant. After the trial, the defendant filed a motion for attorney's fees and a motion to amend the final judgment to add attorney's fees and costs. The Court granted the motion.
On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the trial court erred by amending the judgment outside the term of court to include attorney's fees. The Court of Appeals rejected Plaintiff's argument. The Court held that pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 15-1-3(6), that a court can only amend an order prior to the close of the term of the court in which the judgment was entered. Helpfully, the Court noted that while the order was outside the term of court, the motion for attorney's fees on which the order was based was filed within term of court and therefore the resulting order was valid.
This decision confirms that a defendant can recover attorney's fees as part of the judgment entered in the underlying case. However, defendant must file the motion to amend the judgment to add the attorney's fees within the same term of court as the original judgment is entered.
By: Richard Tisinger, Jr.