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COA: Attorney entitled to lien on former client's file

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An attorney doesn’t have to produce documentation of the amount of money a former client owes in order to have a valid retaining lien, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Gary attorney Douglas Grimes appealed the denial of his verified motion to quash subpoena duces tecum in a medical malpractice action filed by Victoria Crockrom. Crockrom originally hired Grimes as her attorney in the action and he collected certain medical records and put them in her file. He later withdrew as her counsel and Crockrom’s new attorney, Bessie Davis, requested the medical records from Grimes as she was having difficulty obtaining the same documents.

Grimes said he would give her the documents if Crockrom paid the attorney fees she owed him. He said he claimed a retaining lien in the file and documents since Crockrom hadn’t paid.

The trial court denied Grimes motion to quash the subpoena and ordered him to produce the record. At that point, Crockrom still hadn’t paid the attorney fees owed to Grimes.

In Douglas M. Grimes v. Victoria Crockrom, et al., No. 45A03-1008-CT-491, the Court of Appeals, citing Bennett v. NSR Inc., 553 N.E.2d 881, 882 (Ind. Ct. App. 1990), found the trial court erred when it ordered him to produce the medical records without also providing security for the payment of attorney fees. Crockrom disputed the amount of fees Grimes claimed she owed and argued that the lack of any documentation or itemization showing the amount she owed rendered Grimes’ retaining lien invalid.

The judges rejected her argument, saying that a common law retaining lien on records in possession of an attorney arises on rendition of services by the attorney. There’s no legal authority tying the validity of a retaining lien to the provision of an itemized bill to the client, wrote Judge Edward Najam.

“Indeed, a retaining lien is complete and effective without notice to anyone,” he wrote. “And the reasonableness of a fee, as reflected by an attorney’s lien, is irrelevant to the determination of whether the lien has been established.”

The judges also held that Crockrom’s contract with Grimes doesn’t require him to release the medical records even though she hasn’t paid. There’s no provision in the contract that excludes a retaining lien or anything else in it that would preclude one.

The appellate court remanded with instructions to determine the amount of attorney fees owed to Grimes and then order Crockrom to provide security for the payment of the attorney fees in the amount of the fees owed.

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  1. Oh, the name calling was not name calling, it was merely social commentary making this point, which is on the minds of many, as an aside to the article's focus: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100111082327AAmlmMa Or, if you prefer a local angle, I give you exhibit A in that analysis of viva la difference: http://fox59.com/2015/03/16/moed-appears-on-house-floor-says-hes-not-resigning/

  2. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  3. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  4. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  5. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

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