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Bill for city's defense in Ostling case totals more than $500K

The cost of the city of Bainbridge Island's legal defense in the Ostling shooting was more than a half million dollars, according to documents filed in the federal civil rights case.

The ultimate costs of the case — which started after police responded to a 911 call in October 2010 and a Bainbridge officer shot and killed Douglas Ostling after he came at police with a double-bladed ax — are still unknown, as legal skirmishes in the case continue and legal bills continue to pile up.

An eight-member jury ordered the city to pay the Ostling family a total of $1 million after they found the city had not properly trained its police officers to deal with the mentally ill, but the city's attorneys have asked for a new trial. The city's legal team said the jury was given faulty instructions and came to a flawed conclusion, especially in light of the absence of Police Chief Jon Fehlman during the trial.

The city was represented by attorneys from the Seattle law firm of Keating, Bucklin & McCormack.

The civil rights trial started May 14 and the jury announced its verdict June 1.

According to attorney invoices on file with the court in the Ostling case, the city's legal defense team submitted bills for more than 2,170 hours of work on the case, and attorney fees in the case totaled more than $518,000.

Charges for the city's defense against the Ostling lawsuit will not come out of the budget for the city of Bainbridge Island.

The city is a member of the Washington Cities Insurance Authority, an organization that provides liability coverage to more than 125 cities across the state. The city's defense attorneys have billed the insurance authority for their fees and costs in the court case.

With the jury's verdict and attorneys' costs on both sides, the Ostling case has passed the $2 million mark.

Lawyers representing the Ostling family, from Connelly Law Offices in Tacoma, have asked U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton to have the city pay the attorney fees and costs for the winning side, however.

Nathan Roberts, the lead attorney for the Ostling family, said in a recent court filing that attorney fees and costs total $489,437.

Connelly Law Offices has also asked that the court use a multiplier of 1.5 to determine the final amount of fees and costs to be awarded, "to compensate for the extraordinary risk" that the lawyers took in accepting the Ostlings' case.

If the multiplier is used to calculate the fees and costs for Connelly Law Offices, the total amount awarded would rise to more than $688,500.

Attorneys for the city have asked the court to reject the request for attorney fees and costs, calling them excessive and unsubstantiated.

Roberts said the attorney costs were not excessive. He said attorneys from the firm put in less than 1,000 hours on the case, but the city's attorneys had billed Bainbridge Island's insurance pool for nearly 2,200 hours.

"It's a classic pot calling the kettle black that we spent too much time," Roberts said.

"We won the case in about half the time it took them to lose it," he said.

 

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