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Attorney Lien (California)

PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 1:17 pm
by ca_wc_atty
A busy WC atty requested I help him with numerous applicant files in exchange for a split of the atty fee once the case settled. I never filed notices notifying anyone I associated in but did most of the work on these files, including making appearance, client meetings, etc. Now the atty refuses to pay me.

Can I file a lien for the work I performed? Or am I screwed?

Any help is appreciated.

Re: Attorney Lien (California)

PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 4:58 pm
by jonbrissman
I submit that without a written contract, you have no basis to file a WC lien. However, you likely have a remedy in the civil court system based on your representation of a verbal contract, and/or quantum meruit. If the amount in controversy is $7,500.00 or less, or if you waive the amount-in-controversy that exceeds %7,500.00, you may file an action in Small Claims Court. You might also file a complaint with the State Bar, but do not use the complaint (or the threat thereof) as a tool to gain an advantage in the civil litigation.

I am no expert on civil procedure, but I seem to recall that if you file in Superior Court, an impleader will compel the other attorney to deposit the entire amount of the attorney fees with the court. The court then decides how to allocate the fees. Maybe some learned practitioner will weigh in and confirm or refute my knowledge of civil procedure.

Good luck.

JCB

Re: Attorney Lien (California)

PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 5:44 am
by stevepsca
Good day gentlemen... I just have a quesiton on this...
As there are multiple applicant files, and obviously each would carry it's own fee, IF the total compensation owed for the participation were to exceed the Small Claims max/$7500, couldn't there be multiple filings addressing the fee on each claim/settlement ? All of these claims are not likley to settle at the same time. Certainly be easier than a Superior Court action... cheaper to file too I would imagine, and faster court date.

Re: Attorney Lien (California)

PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 6:21 am
by smtilley
An interpleader action is one where two parties are making a claim against property/money held by a third party. For example, in an escrow situation where the escrow company (third party) holds a deposit and the buyer and seller are making a claim for the deposit amount. The escrow company would file an interpleader action asking the court to take the money and decide who should get it.

It would seem to be a waste of time and money to file multiple claims in small claims court. The filing fee for a limited case in superior court (more than $10,000 and less than $25,000.00) is $325.00 for LA Superior. Small claims filing fee is $75.00 for case between $5000 and $7500 in dispute.

Jon, nothing would stop the attorney from filing a lien in each of the cases for attorney fees. Are you saying that without a written contract the attorney would not have a chance of prevailing?

Re: Attorney Lien (California)

PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 11:46 am
by jonbrissman
Scott, I referred to impleader, not interpleader. Nonetheless, I checked Black's Law Dictionary and discovered that impleader is not exactly what I thought it was. Geez, law school was so long ago....

The following are just my opinions, with no citations to back them up: I do not think an attorney could prevail in a lien dispute before the WCAB unless there was a written contract. It is a burden-of-proof issue. I cannot envision a WCJ listening to a "he said, she said" scenario and finding that an oral contract existed and ordering the injured worker's attorney-of-record to pay a portion of his fee to another. But strangely, these scenarios occur regularly in Small Claims Court and those judges decide based on credibility assessments and/or quantum meruit. So I think there is a better chance of recovery in the civil system. Of course, I could be all wrong.

JCB

Re: Attorney Lien (California)

PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 1:53 pm
by steelmanlaw
While Statute of Frauds (1677) would not apply here (abrogated by the UCC), is the oral agreement here worth the paper it was written on? :o

But seriously (somewhat), who would want to take that agreement into small claims, unless the magistrate is your uncle? Talk about hat in hand. I would rather eat the fee just out of pride.