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Goesel v. Boley Intern. (H.K.) Ltd.

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
806 F.3d 414 (2015)


Andrew and Christine Goesel hired Williams, Bax & Saltzman, P.C., to represent their minor son, Cole (plaintiff), in a products-liability suit against Boley Intern. (H.K.) Ltd. (defendants). The Goesels and Williams signed a contingent-fee agreement that entitled Williams to one-third of any settlement; the Goesels’ share would cover litigation expenses. Prior to trial, the defendants settled for $687,500. The agreement entitled Williams to one-third of the gross settlement, or $229,166.67. The Goesels’ total payout, including a deduction for litigation expenses, was $285,384.14. Because Cole was a minor, Illinois law required district court approval of the settlement. Williams told the district court, among other things, that the Goesels’ payout covered Cole’s medical expenses, and pain and suffering. The district court, however, declined to approve the settlement. The Goesels did not dispute that Williams provided competent counsel throughout a long, complex litigation. They also did not dispute that the fee did not surpass the market value for similar legal services. The district court, noting that the Goesels took only 42 percent of the gross settlement, ruled that “fairness and right reason” required that litigation expenses come off the top, prior to the calculation of Williams’s one-third fee. Williams appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Sykes, J.)

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