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Robert L. Wheeler, Inc. v. Scott

Supreme Court of Oklahoma
777 P.2d 394 (1989)


Facts

Robert Scott (defendant) retained Robert Wheeler (plaintiff) to represent him in a foreclosure action filed by United Oklahoma Bank. After five months, Scott was billed for 524.5 hours at a total rate of $54,275.37, which Scott paid. After another five months, Scott was billed for 753.4 hours at a total rate of $85, 841.50, which he did not pay. The bank moved for summary judgment. Wheeler informed Scott that he would withdraw if the fee was not paid. Scott refused to pay. Rather than withdraw, Wheeler sent a first-year associate to oppose the bank’s motion. After the motion was granted, Wheeler withdrew, Scott retained new counsel, and the case was settled. Wheeler brought suit against Scott to collect the unpaid fees. Scott contended that the fees were excessive because: (1) the case did not reach trial, (2) a first-year associate with only five months experience billed 853.5 hours at $110 per hour, (3) the bank’s attorneys charged only $75,534.10 for 850 hours for the work of three experienced attorneys, and (4) the foreclosure was a simple case. The trial court reduced the hourly rate of the associate to $80 and the total fees to $125,723. Scott appealed. The court of appeals affirmed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kauger, J.)

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