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Hauptman, O'Brien, Wolf & Lathrop v. Turco

735 N.W.2d 368 (2007)

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Hauptman, O'Brien, Wolf & Lathrop v. Turco

Nebraska Supreme Court

735 N.W.2d 368 (2007)

Facts

Louis Turco Jr. (defendant) hired the law firm Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, P.C. (the firm) (plaintiff) to represent his minor daughter, Lucia Turco. A drunk driver had injured Lucia and killed her unborn baby. The firm told the Turcos that it would likely be a great deal of work to get the insurance companies to settle Lucia’s claim and gave the Turcos the option of either paying an hourly fee or signing a contingency-fee agreement. The firm explained that the contingency-fee agreement gave it one-third of any settlement or recovery obtained for Lucia, even if the Turcos fired the firm. If the Turcos fired the firm, the fee would be one-third of the most recent settlement offer made before the termination. The Turcos agreed to the terms and signed the contingency-fee agreement. A month later, an insurance company offered to settle for $194,000. A month after that, Louis became unhappy with the firm’s services and fired the firm. Under the contingency-fee agreement, the firm requested one-third of the pretermination settlement offer, approximately $64,600. Louis refused to pay, claiming that the fee was excessive for the amount of work the firm had done in the matter. The firm sued the Turcos to collect the fee. The firm moved for summary judgment, relying on evidence that its contingency-fee agreement was reasonable for the type of work in Lucia’s case and that the firm was skilled in that area. However, the firm did not provide any evidence of the actual work it did on Lucia’s matter. The trial court granted judgment for the firm. The Turcos appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Stephan, J.)

Concurrence (Gerrard, J.)

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