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Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Interesting Fact Pattern out of Orleans Parish

According to a complaint filed by New Orleans attorney James L. Arruebarrena, his client Cherie Garman beautifully strung along him and his associate, getting them to represent her in a mediation and then refused to pay them.  The facts have enough wrinkles to hold out the prospect of an interesting dispute.

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According to this report in the Louisiana Record, the facts alleged are as follows:

  • Garman contacted Arruebarrena on May 9th to represent her in an EEOC-sponsored mediation on May 11th
  • Arruebarrena's associate, Rachel Martin-Deckelmann (M-D) sent Garman via e-mail a fee agreement and contract
  • Garman e-mailed relevant documents to the attorneys but claimed she could not open the files that M-D had sent
  • On May 10th, Garman represented that she had received the documents (now pasted into an e-mail) and would return them immediately
  • That same day, Arruebarrena contacted the EEOC and confirmed that he would represent Garman
  • But Arruebarrena had a medical emergency on May 11th, and so told M-D to represent Garman at the mediation
  • One hour before the mediation, M-D spoke with Garman and went over the litigation strategy.  At that point, Garman represented that she had executed and returned via fax the attorneys' contract
  • During a break in the mediation, M-D learned that the contract had not been received.  She notified Garman, who promised to re-fax the contract immediately after the mediation
  • After a five-hour mediation, the parties agreed to a $100,000 settlement
  • When it came time for the check to be issued, Garman claimed that she had never signed the contract and that all funds should go to her.

Arruebarrena has now sued for fraud and breach of contract, seeking reasonable attorneys' fees, costs and punitive damages.  

Our blogger Nancy Kim is no doubt all over the issues that arise from cases like this one, since her work is all about the perils of e-contracting, so perhaps this case is pretty humdrum, but one wonders if the sudden change of attorneys had something to do with Garman's refusal to pay.  There are interesting lacunae in the narrative set out in the complaint.

[JT]

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