Disputes involving attorneys can be inherently complicated and require a significant amount of legal wrangling to settle. The issue at hand in 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 attorney Mr. Lehman. Mr. Lehman represented the Browns in a case to recover damages suffered from Hurricane Katrina but subsequently 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. Although the lower court granted Mr. Lehman a large percentage of the settlement received by the Browns amounting to $12,300, the Court of Appeals reversed that decision because Mr. Lehman had withdrawn from the case and failed to first file a motion to intervene (a fact the trial court was not aware was necessary) before he filed the motion to set fees.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 above case displays the importance of detail within the law. The trial court made a judgment on an intervening rule that was then overturned on appeal, creating a situation very detrimental financially to the Browns and anyone in the same situation. Every law student takes a course in civil procedure in their first year of law school and many find it to be unexciting and drawn out. This case, however, shows its practical importance in the legal world in which we reside. 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 are scoured over and double-checked by legal representation and the courts of the state are expected to know the ins and outs of the law. This is a daunting challenge and everyone involved needs to make sure the proper rules are abided by from the beginning of a case to the final verdict. The Browns learned a hard lesson but in the end it was corrected by the workings of the system on appeal. 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; details that, as every first year law student learns in civil procedure, never should be overlooked.