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Gagnon v. Shoblom

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
565 N.E.2d 775 (1991)


Facts

Donald Shoblom (defendant) crashed his employer’s truck into a parked trailer. Shoblom killed Susan Thompson and injured Donald Gagnon (plaintiff). Gagnon hired attorney Alan Goodman to file a lawsuit against Shoblom and Shoblom’s employer. Gagnon agreed to a contingent-fee arrangement with Goodman in which Goodman would receive 33 1/3 percent of any recovery for Gagnon. After the discovery phase of litigation, Goodman reached a settlement of $2,925,000. The trial judge approved the settlement agreement, except for the contingent fee to Goodman, which totaled $975,000. The judge held a hearing on the reasonableness of the settlement agreement. At the hearing, Gagnon testified that he signed the continent-fee agreement voluntarily and that he believed Gagnon earned the fee. No evidence was presented at the hearing to show that the fee was unreasonable. The judge ordered that Goodman’s compensation be reduced to $695,000, reasoning that anything more would be excessive and unreasonable. Goodman directly appealed the trial court’s order reducing his fee.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Nolan, 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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Concurrence (Greaney, J.)

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