Attorney Re-Enters Picture for Fees After Couple Successfully Settles Without Him

Choosing the right attorney for your lawsuit is crucial, not only for receiving the proper compensation for your damages but also to be protected by the legal representative themselves. The issue at hand for this post comes from a case heard in the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Circuit of Louisiana. The plaintiffs, Jill and Claud Brown, brought a case against their former attorney Mr. Lehman.

Mr. Lehman represented the Browns in a case to recover damages suffered from Hurricane Katrina. However, Lehman soon after withdrew from the case with the court’s permission on July 23, 2009. In the spring of the next year Mr. Lehman filed a “motion to set fees” requesting the Browns to pay him legal fees after the Browns had received a settlement in their case. Although the lower court granted Mr. Lehman a large percentage of the settlement received by the Browns, amounting to $12,300.00, the Court of Appeals reversed that decision because Mr. Lehman had withdrawn from the case and failed to first file a motion to intervene before he filed the motion to set fees. The motion to intervene in the action was deemed to be necessary by the appeals court and that was the reason for the reversal.

The case shows the unfortunate side of what can happen when individuals hire legal representation to handle their claims. The trial court’s determination of the rule about a former attorney intervening after withdrawing from a case created a tenuous situation for the Browns and anyone in the same situation, as they were forced to pay for and hire subsequent representation in order to protect themselves from their former lawyer. The Browns’ situation is one that anyone can easily finds themselves especially considering the difficulty for most people to navigate the language of the law in Louisiana.

The law is filled with minute details that can affect the outcome of an entire case, as in the case involving the Browns. The details need to be scoured over by our legal representation and the courts of the state are expected to know the ins and outs of the law in a way that some would argue was lacking in the case of the lower court’s decision above. The Browns faced an unfortunate situation in the financial claim and subsequent legal process, but these problems were eventually corrected by the workings of the system on appeal with proper representation. It is easy to relate to their situation and future plaintiffs and courts need to be aware of details that can save them from decisions that wrongfully punish plaintiffs.

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