The Court of Appeals of Washington in Shoemake v. Ferrer, 182 P.3rd 992 (2008) considered an interested argument by a defendant in a legal malpractice case. The Defendant lawyers blew a statute of limitations by two days in a serious head-on car accident collusion case with a drug driver. This was a guy that needed a car accident lawyer in Washington that was competent to handle his case.
The problem was that he apparently did not find a competent car accident attorney. Instead, he found a lawyer that ignored State’s Farm’s $100,000 offer to pay on Plaintiff’s uninsured motorist claim because he was “was unsure of the legal ramifications of accepting that payment.” The lesson, as always: if you are not qualified to handle a serious car accident case, don’t to it. So many lawyers who don’t handle car accident claims regularly think they can. They think it sounds so easy. But it is not.
But that is not what is interesting about the case. What is interesting is the Defendant contended successfully to the trial judge that the negligent car accident lawyers were entitled to have the damages awarded reduced by the amount stated in the lawyer’s contingency fee agreement with the client.
That’s pretty outrageous when you think about it. What these lawyers are arguing is that the client, who got creamed by a drunk driver, should have to pay the 40% contingency fee twice, once to him, and once to the lawyer, he had to sue for legal malpractice. This would knock the victim’s recovery back to 36%. Insane.
The Washington Court of Appeals in Shoemake agreed, citing supporting case law in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota that the client should not be required to pay attorneys’ fees twice for the same recovery.