Culpepper & Carroll, PLLC v. Cole
Supreme Court of Louisiana
929 So. 2d 1224 (2006)
Connie Cole (plaintiff) hired attorney Bobby Culpepper of the firm Culpepper & Carroll, PLLC (firm) (defendant) to represent him in a matter contesting Cole’s mother’s will. Cole asked Culpepper to handle the matter on a contingency-fee basis of one-third of any award. Culpepper sent Cole a letter to confirm that he would accept a contingent fee of one-third “of whatever additional property or money we can get for you.” During negotiations, Cole was offered property worth $21,600.03 more than what he would have received under his mother’s will. Culpepper recommended that Cole accept the offer. Cole believed he was entitled to a larger share of his mother’s estate, and he rejected the offer. Culpepper then refused to file a lawsuit, and Cole terminated Culpepper as his attorney. Cole, representing himself, brought an action challenging his mother’s will. Cole lost, and he recovered nothing. Culpepper filed a petition on behalf of the firm seeking $6,950.01, which represented one-third of the offer, less costs Cole previously paid. Cole denied that he owed Culpepper any money, arguing that Culpepper took the matter on a contingency-fee basis and then quit. The matter went to trial, and the court found in favor of the firm. The court found that there was a contingency-fee arrangement and that Culpepper had performed work that entitled Culpepper to the contingency fee. Cole appealed the trial court’s judgment. The appeals court affirmed the trial court, finding that a valid contingent-fee contract existed and that Cole deprived Culpepper of his contingent fee when he did not sign the offer that Culpepper negotiated. Cole applied for a writ of certiorari from the state supreme court, and the state supreme court granted the writ to review the case.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Per Curiam)
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