ILNews

COA: Attorney must wait to collect fees

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court's ruling on when an attorney could receive his compensation under a contingency fee agreement, even though the attorney didn't submit a transcript of the bench trial detailing the trial court's findings.

In Thomas J. Herr v. Carter Lumber Inc., The Carter Jones Lumber Company, and Brian L. Oaks, No. 79A02-0803-CV-290, before ruling on the issue Thomas Herr was appealing - whether the trial court erred in ordering he receive compensation under a contingency fee agreement only after his former client, Carter Lumber, makes a recovery - the appellate court first had to determine whether the fact Herr didn't provide a transcript of the bench trial in his appeal warranted the court dismissing the appeal.

Relying on previous cases regarding this issue - Pabey v. Pastrick, 816 N.E.2d 1138, 1141-1142 (Ind. 2004) and In re Walker, 665 N.E.2d 586, 588 (Ind. 1996), the Court of Appeals ruled it would address the issue Herr raised.

Carter Lumber hired Herr to represent it in certain collection matters at the rate of $175 per hour plus reimbursement of any advanced costs, and other collection matters on the basis of a 25 percent contingent fee with the client to pay court costs.

At some point, Herr's representation was terminated and he filed a complaint against Carter Lumber seeking quantum meruit compensation, as measured by his normal fee of $185 per hour for all the work he did that hadn't been paid.

Because the contract between Herr and Carter Lumber didn't spell out what Herr's compensation would be in the event he was terminated, the trial court ruled the attorney would have to wait until funds are collected on behalf of the client to collect his fee.

Citing similar caselaw that dealt with a contingency fee agreement that didn't specify a termination clause, the appellate court determined Herr can't receive compensation for his attorney fees until Carter Lumber receives payment from collections.
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  1. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  2. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  3. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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