Friday, September 14, 2007
A father-son dispute over the ownership rights to photographs taken by Sam Shaw -- "including the famous photograph of Marilyn Monroe with her skirt blowing upward"-- took eight years to resolve in a wide array of actions that were settled in 2002. An attorney represented son Larry Shaw from the inception under a $200 per hour written fee agreement. Another attorney represented Larry's sisters in the litigation at a $300 hourly rate with a clause that doubled the fee if he obtained "some or all" of the contested images. After the settlement, both lawyers sought to enforce a charging lien against the photographs under New York law.
On appeal of a Supreme Court order granting the charging lien, the First Department affirmed. Larry Shaw "never denied receipt of [the lawyer's] bills and never protested the amounts..." establishing that the fee was reasonable. The lawyer for the sisters "did not send a bill... until only a few weeks before his petition [and] failed to establish an account stated." The bill had been vigorously disputed. Thus, the issue of reasonableness of the fee was properly referred to a special master.
Some of the photos had been damaged. The lien attached to the insurance proceeds paid as a result as the "proceeds...are the images in a different form." (Mike Frisch)