Accident Attorneys Fee Fight Goes to a Hearing; No "For Cause" Firing for Corrected Billing Error

Case: Lewis v. City of New York

Court: N.Y.S. Supreme Court, New York County

Date: 7/30/12

From: New York attorney Gary E. Rosenberg (personal injury and accident attorney and lawyer; serving Brooklyn and Queens; Queens injury attorney

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Facts: This is an accident case. But this decision comes at the end of the case -- there is a fight between two attorneys over the amount of a fee each should get.

Know that the accident victim does not have to pay extra where more than one attorney worked on the case. The attorneys have to carve up the fee between themselves.

The plaintiff's case settled for $2,600,000. The one-third attorney fee to share is $866,666.66.

The first attorney claims a "lien" on the case for his fee, because he started the lawsuit and took it up to filing plaintiff's note of issue and certificate of readiness for trial. The new attorney settled this case after a jury was picked but before the trial began.

Here, the new attorney claims that the old attorney is entitled to no fee at all, because he supposedly was fired "for cause." The only basis for the "for cause" argument was a billing mistake that the old attorney made for incorrect billing for outside work (whatever that means), which the Court notes the former attorney promptly corrected.

Held: The corrected billing error doesn't give rise to a "for cause" dismissal of the old attorney. The old attorney is entitled to share in the $866,666.66 fee. The attorneys are ordered to a hearing to determine how the fee will be split.

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