Thursday, January 22, 2009

Regular And Timely Billing Merits Summary Judgment In Fee Action

The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department held today that summary judgment had improperly been denied to a law firm suing a former client for unpaid fees in a domestic relations matter:

Evidence in the form of detailed monthly invoices addressed to defendant, together with affidavits submitted by plaintiff and defendant, indicating that the invoices were regularly and timely forwarded to and received by defendant, established plaintiff's compliance with the retainer agreement's regular billing requirements. Defendant's contention that she often orally objected to the bills by making general complaints to plaintiff that the bills were high was self-serving, not time specific, and otherwise contradicted by her actions in failing to avail herself of the offered arbitration (see Darby & Darby v VSI Intl., 95 NY2d 308, 315 [2000]; Manhattan Telecom. Corp. v Best Payphones, 299 AD2d 178 [2002], lv denied 100 NY2d 507 [2003]). Furthermore, defendant's undated letter to the court, complaining that the bills were "too high" and that plaintiff continuously assured her that her husband would have to pay the bills generated in the matrimonial action, was vague and belated since it appears to have been drafted months after plaintiff had moved to be relieved as defendant's counsel.

(Mike Frisch)

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