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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. My mother got temporary guardianship of my children in 2012. my husband and I got divorced 2015 the judge ordered me to have full custody of all my children. Does this mean the temporary guardianship is over? I'm confused because my divorce papers say I have custody and he gets visits and i get to claim the kids every year on my taxes. So just wondered since I have in black and white that I have custody if I can go get my kids from my moms and not go to jail?

  2. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  3. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  4. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  5. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

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