Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Ninth Circuit Finds NY Attorney Entitled to Additional Fees for Value of Referring Case to Nevada Law Firm
The Ninth Circuit has remanded a fee dispute case between attorneys to the trial court for a recalculation of the fees the referring New York attorney is entitled to for the referral to the Nevada law firm that successfully settled the case.
New York attorney Brian Fitzgerald referred a medical malpractice case to the Nevada law firm and alleged that there was an oral agreement to share the fees 50/50. The trial court rejected this argument, instead awarding Fitzgerald fees based on quantum meruit in an amount totaling one third of the added value to the client for Fitzgerald convincing the Nevada law firm to lower its contingency fee arrangement with the client. Fitzgerald appealed both the rejection of the oral agreement and the award under the theory of quantum meruit. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the trial court's rejection of the oral agreement, but remanded the case for the trial court to recalculate the quantum meruit award. The Court concluded that the trial court did not properly consider the value to the Nevada law firm of Fitzgerald's referral of the case to the firm.