Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Court denies Fee to lawyer who negotiated a milti-million dollar settlement
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has upheld a district court's decision not to award any fee to an attorney who negotiated a $2.4 million settlement for a brain-damaged infant and his mother in a medical malpractice case (Chen v. Chen Qualified Settlement Trust, 2d Cir., No. 06-1302-cv(L), 1/5/09). The lawyer had submitted a proposed settlement and compromise order with a general list of services rendered, which included obtaining “all medical reports,” but he did not provide any documentation detailing his fee request. He also did not submit an assessment of liability, an expert report, or any documentation of the client's medical condition or projected medical expenses. Calling the information Goldman provided “totally unhelpful,” the district court appointed a special master to recommend whether to approve the settlement and fee request. The special master asked Goldman for additional information several times. He told the special master that he had not obtained any expert reports, records from the client's treating physician, or a “life care plan” regarding Fan's future medical treatment. The special master concluded that, given the lack of documentation, it was impossible to determine whether the settlement amount was reasonable and whether Goldman's fee request was justified. Also, the requested fee exceeded the amount permitted under New York Law a for contingent fees in medical malpractice litigation, and the lawyer had not obtained all medical reports as asserted in his affidavit, the special master noted. After receiving various materials and holding a hearing, the court approved the proposed settlement; however, it completely denied Goldman's fee request and allowed disbursements only to the extent that the lawyer could substantiate them. Goldman's fee application and compromise order was “totally incompetent,” and his initial overcharge was deliberate, the court concluded.