Palmer v. Felicetti L. Firm, PLLC

Former counsel initially represented the client in the underlying personal injury lawsuit. Per the retainer agreement, the client agreed to pay former counsel “40% of any recovery up to $1 million through the time of the trial of the case.” The retainer agreement also included the following provision regarding payment in the event former counsel was discharged:

I reserve the right to discharge my attorney at any time. If I discharge my attorney, I agree to compensate him for his services rendered through the date of discharge, as well as reimburse him for the costs expended in handling my case. If I discharge my attorney, he shall be entitled to the same percentages of any recovery as noted above based on the last settlement offer prior to his discharge, or based on the verdict or award if a verdict or award has been rendered prior to the attorney's discharge. If no settlement offer has been made or no verdict or award been rendered, then the attorney shall be entitled to an attorney's fee based on the reasonable value of his services rendered through the date of discharge (emphasis added).

Under recent Fourth DCA precedent, discharged attorneys hired under a contingent fee contract are entitled to recover quantum meruit for their services, but it’s limited by any maximum fee allowable under the discharged attorney's fee agreement. The only settlement offer obtained by former counsel prior to discharge was for $200,000, so the maximum fee allowable under former counsel's retainer agreement was $80,000, not $110,000 as awarded. REVERSED IN PART AND REMANDED.

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