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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. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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