A recent Bloomberg Big Law Business story by Bernie Pazanowski, “Attorney May Get Millions Despite Invalid Fee Agreement,” reports that a Texas attorney may be able to recover millions of dollars in unpaid fees even though the oral contingent-fee agreements he entered into with his client are unenforceable under Texas law, the Texas Supreme Court said April 13.
Texas law requires contingent-fee agreements for legal services to be in writing, the opinion by Justice Paul W. Green said.
But when they’re not, the value of the services rendered may still be recoverable thru an equitable remedy known as “quantum meruit.”
Attorney Gregory Shamoun had four separate agreements with Albert G. Hill Jr., to represent Hill in cases in which Hill was involved. But Hill was also involved in a number of other additional, connected cases involving other members of his family, family trusts, and a number of business entities.
Shamoun soon became entangled in the other cases.
Shamoun and Hill never signed a written agreement for the extra services. Instead, they orally discussed Shamoun getting a bonus based on the amount Shamoun saved Hill through a global settlement of the other cases.
While Hill paid Shamoun for his services under the signed agreements, he refused to pay him the $11.25 million he requested for legal services related to the settlement, which was finalized after Shaoun had been terminated.
Shamoun’s firm sued Hill and a jury said Shouman provided $7.25 million in compensable services. The trial court set aside those findings because of the lack of a written fee agreement.
Shamoun’s quantum meruit suit may proceed, the supreme court said. The top court revived the attorney’s chance to collect but said Shamoun must again prove the value of the services he rendered as the jury’s award wasn’t supported.
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP represented Hill. Alexander Dubose Jefferson & Townsend LLP represented Shamoun.
The case is Hill v. Shamoun & Norman LLP, 2018 BL 130514, Tex., No. 16-0107.