Attorneys’ Fee Dispute Opinion

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals interpreted a mandatory fee dispute arbitration requirement for attorney fee disputes in the District of Columbia today.

The issue is whether a personal injury law firm was entitled to 40% of Plaintiff’s recovery or whether the fee increased to 50% because the “Plaintiff prevailed on attorneys fees opinionappeal” clause in the retainer agreement had been triggered. The underlying claim arose from Plaintiff’s injuries, which occurred while Plaintiff was being rescued from a broken elevator at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. I suspect both the Plaintiff and the Plaintiff’s lawyer were Maryland residents, which triggered Maryland’s involvement in the case.

I’m interested in these cases because it is always interesting to see the fee agreements of other lawyers. We have had a nice brief run of appellate victories of late and it would have been nice to increase our fee agreement on those cases. Our client fee agreement specifically does not include appeals in our 40% fee. But when we have won appeals, we have stuck to the 40% fee anyway, probably as a Pavlovian reflex that 40% is what is appropriate after a lawsuit has been filed.

Otherwise, this case is not of much use to the Maryland bar because it involves mandatory fee arbitration for cases handled in Washington D.C. The court steadfastly applied D.C. law. The only real take-home message is one that the Maryland Court of Appeals has already made clear: the court believes there is a strong legislative policy in Maryland favoring enforcement of arbitration agreements.

You can find the opinion here.

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