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Booker v. Midpac Lumber Co. Ltd

Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals
636 P.2d 1359 (1981)


Facts

R. G. Booker (plaintiff) hired lawyer D. N. Ingman (defendant) to represent Booker in his personal-injury lawsuit against Midpac Lumber Co. Ltd (Midpac) (defendant). Booker’s contract with Ingman was a contingency-fee arrangement providing that Ingman would receive one-third of Booker’s award in the lawsuit against Midpac. Ingman did the work to initiate Booker’s lawsuit against Midpac plus some other work on the case. Booker, however, fired Ingman without cause and hired a different law firm instead. Ingman filed a lien in Booker’s case against Midpac to recover attorney’s fees under the contract. Booker asked the trial court to decide how much Ingman was due and then remove the lien. Ingman argued that he should receive the percentage of the one-third contingency fee that would represent the amount of time Ingman spent on the case when compared with the amount of time Booker’s new law firm spent. The trial court rejected this argument because Booker’s case had not yet been concluded. Ingman then argued that Booker’s case was worth at least $100,000, but the trial court was also unwilling to consider that amount. The trial court awarded Ingman $1,500 in attorney’s fees based solely on the 25 billable hours the court concluded Ingman had spent on Booker’s case. Ingman appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Burns, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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