This summary also appears under Contracts
Issues: Dispute over attorney fees; Whether a contract should be implied under a quantum meruit theory of recovery to prevent unjust enrichment; Morris Pumps v. Centerline Piping, Inc.; Plunkett & Cooney, PC v. Capitol Bancorp Ltd.; Reynolds v. Polen; A trial court's reasonable fee analysis; MRPC 1.5(a); Smith v. Khouri; Wood v. DAIIE; Promissory estoppel; State Bank of Standish v. Curry; Booker v. Detroit; Novak v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co.
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: Demopolis v. Jones
e-Journal Number: 59724
Judge(s): Per Curiam – Hoekstra, Markey, and Donofrio
Holding that the trial court did not err by finding that no contractual agreement existed between the appellant-lawyer and the plaintiff-client, or abuse its discretion in determining a reasonable rate for attorney fees under a quantum meruit theory, the court affirmed the trial court's orders awarding appellant $9,000 in attorney fees and $2,153.91 in costs. Appellant represented plaintiff in a personal injury action. After the case settled for $65,000, he sought one-third of the settlement after costs, claiming he was entitled to the benefit of the fee agreement plaintiff had with his original attorney. The trial court found there was no agreement between the parites, but found that his costs were $2,153.91, and that he "was entitled to a reasonable fee for file preparation, review of medical documents, four depositions, a motion to show cause, a motion to compel, a case evaluation summary, and attendance for 45 hours at $200 a hour for a total of $9,000." On appeal, the court rejected his arguments that he was entitled to a full one-third of the settlement under the principle of quantum meruit, that promissory estoppel applied, and that the trial court erred in reducing the fee awarded based on its determination that the plaintiff's mother, as next friend, did half the work on the case. It first found that the trial court's "determinations were proper credibility and factual determinations made . . . in a contested case primarily decided between the testimonies" of two witnesses, and noted that the trial court was "required to weigh all the factors in determining a reasonable fee and therefore need not award a precise amount as compared to the median." As to his promissory estoppel argument, it found "no error in the court's finding that there was no promise." Finally, the court found that the trial court "did not state that it reduced the hours worked by appellant because of" the plaintiff's mother's work. "When speaking of her contribution, the trial court referred to her work on the case before appellant was retained. Further, the extent that other individuals contributed to the case outside of his firm was a valid factor to consider when determining a reasonable fee."
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