final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit,
Palm Beach County; David E. French, Judge; L.T. Case No.
50-2010-CA-003492 XXXX MB AJ.
R. Browning and Xavier T. Saunders of Spohrer & Dodd,
P.L., Jacksonville, for appellant.
Marjorie Gadarian Graham of Marjorie Gadarian Graham, P.A.,
Palm Beach Gardens, for appellees.
William O'Malley appeals an order awarding Appellees
Brian Freeman and the Freeman law firm $83, 379.47 in
attorney's fees and costs for work performed by Freeman
as attorney for Appellant on a contingency fee basis. We
reverse the award because the trial court erred in finding
the parties had an enforceable agreement. However, as
services were performed by Freeman and a benefit was received
by Appellant, the trial court may award Freeman fees and
costs on a quantum meruit basis. As such, we remand this
issue to the trial court, with the measure of fees to be
calculated utilizing the analysis discussed in Searcy,
Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley, P.A. v. Poletz,
652 So.2d 366 (Fla. 1995).
was in a car wreck leaving him in a coma for months. During
this period, his mother signed a personal injury contingency
fee contract as "personal representative of the estate
of William O'Malley." However, Appellant had not
executed a power of attorney, had not been declared legally
incompetent, and had not been appointed a legal guardian.
Soon after waking, he signed a document giving his mother
power of attorney. Appellant's mother later testified
that he was "totally incapacitated at that time."
claimed that he had several phone conversations with
Appellant and that Appellant knew Freeman had filed suit on
his behalf. Appellant later terminated the representation
without explanation. Freeman never claimed to have shown the
fee agreement to Appellant or otherwise attempted to have him
trial court found that Appellant ratified the fee agreement
signed by his mother and that the "times and fees
submitted by Freeman [we]re fair and reasonable for like
services within the community." The trial court made an
oral ruling as well, noting that Freeman's work
"probably would have been of great benefit if there had
been better communication but under the circumstances
it's unjust for someone . . . to work on a case and . . .
get discharged without any real explanation." The court
awarded the sum Freeman sought, minus the work performed
after his discharge.
extent that a trial court's order on attorney's fees
is based on an interpretation of the law, we have de novo
review. Ferere v. Shure, 65 So.3d 1141, 1144 (Fla.
4th DCA 2011). Otherwise, particularly with respect to the
amount of the award, the standard of review is abuse of
discretion. Hinkley v. Gould, Cooksey, Fennell,
O'Neill, Marine, Carter & Hafner, P.A.,
971 So.2d 955, 956 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007).
Every lawyer who accepts a retainer or enters into an
agreement, express or implied, for compensation for services
rendered or to be rendered in any action, claim, or
proceeding whereby the lawyer's compensation is to be
dependent or contingent in whole or in part upon the
successful prosecution or settlement thereof shall do so only
where such fee arrangement is reduced to a written contract,
signed by the client, and by a lawyer for the lawyer
or for the law firm representing the client. No lawyer or
firm may participate in the fee without the consent of the
client in writing. Each participating lawyer or law firm
shall sign the contract with the client and shall agree to
assume joint legal responsibility to the client for the
performance of the services in question as if each were
partners of ...