December 9, 2011
One Out Of Three Doesn't Earn The Fee
The New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department affirmed an award of damages to a former client who had sued his attorney for breach of contract:
Pursuant to a May 28, 2002, retainer agreement, the defendant was required to perform three tasks for the plaintiff in exchange for an attorney's fee in the sum of $20,000. The defendant failed to perform two of the three agreed-upon tasks, despite having been paid in full. The plaintiff informed the defendant by letter dated February 8, 2006, that he was discharging the defendant for cause, and sought the return of any unearned fees. The defendant denied the plaintiff's request for the return of any unearned fees, prompting the plaintiff to file a pro se complaint alleging breach of contract. Based on the evidence that the defendant had not performed all of the agreed upon tasks under the terms of the retainer agreement, the Supreme Court, inter alia, denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and, upon searching the record, awarded summary judgment to the plaintiff on the issue of liability. Following an inquest on damages, the Supreme Court entered judgment in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant in the principal sum of $13,333.34.
On appeal, the defendant provides no valid basis for reversing the judgment. It is clear that the defendant made a promise to perform, but there was no subsequent performance with respect to two of the three tasks that formed the basis for the $20,000 attorney's fee...
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