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Ford v. Albany Medical Center

Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York
724 N.Y.S.2d 795 (2001)


Facts

In February 1998, Sandra Ford (plaintiff) consulted with attorney Eugene Spada regarding a potential medical-malpractice claim against Albany Medical Center (defendant) based on her daughter’s medical treatment. On April 8, 1988, attorney Charles Harding sent a letter to Spada, notifying Spada that Ford had retained Harding to handle the claim instead. Harding’s letter asked Spada to sign a form consenting to the change of counsel, and noted that Harding would split fees with Spada in an equitable manner because Ford had originally hired Spada. The next day, Spada and Harding spoke on the phone and agreed that Spada would receive 33.33 percent of any fee. Spada requested that Harding confirm the fee split in writing. Harding sent Spada a check to pay for expenses, but did not mention an agreement about splitting fees. On May 12, 1998, Spada wrote to Harding and again asked for confirmation. A week later, Spada received a letter from Harding confirming the fee split. Ford’s case was settled, and the state supreme court determined the fee for legal services to be $99,701.48. Spada petitioned for 33.33 percent of the fee, and Harding cross-petitioned to extinguish Spada’s claim. The supreme court found that Spada had an attorney-client relationship with Ford and was entitled to a portion of the fee based on quantum meruit, which was to be determined at a hearing. The supreme court also found that the confirmation letter was sent from Harding’s office without his authorization and did not create a binding agreement between Harding and Spada. Spada appealed, arguing that the fee-split agreement was enforceable.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lahtinen, J.)

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