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Law firm sued over med-mal fees prevails on appeal

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An Indianapolis law firm was properly granted summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by a former client in a medical malpractice lawsuit, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

Rogelio Garcia sued the firm claiming breach of contract and illegal fee collections in Rogelio Garcia v. Garau Germano Hanley & Pennington, P.C., 49A02-1401-PL-7. Garcia sued after his then-wife, Renee, gave birth to a child in May 2001 who died less than a year later while receiving medical care. The couple retained GGHP to sue their son’s doctor.

The case was settled in 2008 with the Garcias receiving $250,000 from the doctor – the maximum allowed by statute – and the Patient’s Compensation Fund paying the Garcia’s the maximum $1 million. The fund paid $900,000 up front and $100,000 in an annuity. The law firm took $62,333 of the doctor’s payment – one-third of the value of the current settlement as allowed by statute.

GGHP also took 15 percent of the fund settlement as law allows, plus another $124,668 it determined it was entitled to receive, collecting fees of $337,001 on a total present value recovery of $1,137,001.

“This amount was authorized under the contract. The manner in which GGHP accounted for its fee adjustment does not compel a conclusion that GGHP took a share of the Fund settlement above the fifteen percent permitted by statute,” Senior Judge Betty Barteau wrote for the panel, citing  In re Stephens, 867 N.E.2d 148, 155-156 (Ind. 2007).



 

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  1. Indianapolis Bar Association President John Trimble and I are on the same page, but it is a very large page with plenty of room for others to join us. As my final Res Gestae article will express in more detail in a few days, the Great Recession hastened a fundamental and permanent sea change for the global legal service profession. Every state bar is facing the same existential questions that thrust the medical profession into national healthcare reform debates. The bench, bar, and law schools must comprehensively reconsider how we define the practice of law and what it means to access justice. If the three principals of the legal service profession do not recast the vision of their roles and responsibilities soon, the marketplace will dictate those roles and responsibilities without regard for the public interests that the legal profession professes to serve.

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