Friday, November 3, 2023
The decision in Davidoff Hutcher & Citron v. Bannon is four months old, and you will learn no new contracts doctrine from this post, unless you didn't realize that it was a breach of contract to use legal services and not pay from them. But it's Friday, and it's November, one of the two cruelest months in the academic calendar, so I am indulging my penchant for Schadenfreude.
The matter is quite simple. The plaintiff law firm represented Stephen Bannon for two years until late 2022, when Mr. Bannon stopped paying his bills. At that point, he owed the firm $850,000 and he had paid $375,000. He now owes nearly $500,000 plus legal fees to his erstwhile legal team.
Mr. Bannon urged the court that the grant of summary judgment was premature. He claimed that 1) plaintiff stopped providing services for him in January 2022; 2) plaintiff charged him for matters outside the scope of the retainer agreement; 3) one of plaintiff's attorney's will testify on Mr. Bannon's behalf in one of the matters and thus plainiff cannot recover the full amount it seeks; 4) the invoices were sent to his business address instead of his home address; and seemingly inconsistently 5) the invoices were paid by his staff located at his business address and not by him.
The court quickly dismissed all of Mr. Bannon's arguments. Plaintiff provided meticulous evidence of the work that it had done for Mr. Bannon, as well as evidence that he continued to pay the invoices through his agents and continued to seek legal services from plaintiff after January 2022. As to exceeding the scope of the retainer agreement, that agreement provided that plaintiff would represent Mr. Bannon on "such and various matters and issues as may arise from time to time." Mr. Bannon knew that plaintiff was representing him on matters that may have exceeded the scope of the agreement, but Mr. Bannon knowingly received that benefit and may not now refuse to pay for it.