Monday, June 23, 2014

Quantum Meruit for Attorney Can't Include a Lodestar Multplier

Chodos v. Borman, No. B252446 (D2d5 as modified, July 9, 2014)

An attorney sues his client to collect fees for representations in two divorce cases and a Marvin action. But, contrary to Business & Processions Code §§ 6147 and 6148, he never got a signed agreement. That limits him to quantum merit. After trial, the jury found that the attorney had done 1,800 hours of work and that his reasonable rate was $1,000 an hour. It then, as permitted by the court’s instructions, applied a lodestar multiple of five, ultimately awarding $7.8 million. The court here reverses, finding that a lodestar multiplier cannot be applied in awarding an attorney quantum meruit for services performed without a written fee agreement. To do so could reward attorneys for breaching their ethical obligations to get client fee agreements in writing.


Reversed.

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