Sunday, March 3, 2019

No Standing To Challenge Lawyer Fee Spat For Unaggrieved Client

The Connecticut Appellate Court has held that a client (here, an estate) does not have standing to appeal the resolution of a fee dispute between its former attorneys so long as the total fee is not affected. 

On August 29, 2012, Connor Kusmit was riding a bicycle when he was struck by a vehicle operated by Christina Groumousas. He died as a result of the collision. On September 20, 2012, the plaintiffs signed a retainer agreement with the defendant’s law firm, which provided that the law firm was to represent them, on behalf of the estate, in connection with their claim for damages ‘‘resulting from an event which occurred on or about the 29th day of August, 2012 at Clintonville Rd. North Haven.’’ The plaintiffs agreed to pay the defendant’s law firm one third of the gross amount recovered. The defendant subsequently settled a wrongful death claim against Groumousas for $50,000, and the Probate Court approved the settlement on July 16, 2013.

New counsel then brought an uninsured motorist claim

the Probate Court also authorized [successor counsel] Mills’ settlement of the underinsured motorist claim for $200,000. Thereafter, the defendant notified the Probate Court that he was claiming a portion of the $66,666.67 in attorney’s fees that Mills sought from the $200,000 underinsured motorist claim settlement (disputed fees).


After a hearing held on May 4, 2015, at which only the defendant appeared, the Probate Court entered an order allocating $40,000 of the disputed fees to the defendant and the remaining $26,666.67 to Mills, from which the plaintiffs subsequently appealed to the Superior Court. Following a trial de novo held on January 20, 2017, the Superior Court awarded the defendant $40,000 in fees and ordered Mills, who was holding the disputed funds, to disburse that amount to the defendant and return to the estate $26,666.4 This appeal followed.

And failed

we conclude that the plaintiffs are not aggrieved by the judgment of the Superior Court, and, thus, the plaintiffs do not have standing to appeal from that judgment.

(Mike Frisch)

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