Determination of Fee Due To Discharged Attorney- Quantum Meruit


Ifediba v. Staffney, [Ms. 2190615, Mar. 26, 2021], ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2021). In a per curiam opinion, the court (Thompson, P.J., and Moore and Edwards, JJ., concur; Hanson, J., concurs specially; Friday, J., concurs in part and concurs in the result) reverses a judgment of the Bibb Circuit Court awarding attorney Ifediba $5,000 from the proceeds of a wrongful death settlement. The court explains

The right of Ifediba to any recovery as to his fee claim stems from the principle recognized by this court in Gaines, Gaines & Gaines, P.C. v. Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, 554 So. 2d 445 (Ala. Civ. App. 1989), under which, notwithstanding the acknowledged power of a client, such as Staffney, to unilaterally revoke a retained attorney’s authority to represent the client’s interests in a legal proceeding, “‘an attorney discharged without cause, or otherwise prevented from full performance, is entitled to be reasonably compensated ... for services rendered before such discharge.’” 554 So. 2d at 448 (quoting Owens v. Bolt, 218 Ala. 344, 348, 118 So. 590, 594 (1928) (emphasis added)).

Ms. **8-9 (emphasis added by Ifediba).

The circuit court awarded Ifediba a flat $5,000 which was not referable to Ifediba’s evidentiary submissions regarding the alleged hours expended and claimed hourly rate. Ms. *11. The court reverses and remands for entry of a new judgment specifying the basis for any fee and expense award. The court reiterates that “ ‘a trial court’s order regarding an attorney fee must allow for meaningful appellate review by articulating the decisions made, the reasons supporting those decisions, and how it calculated the attorney fee.’ ” Ibid., quoting Pharmacia Corp. v. McGowan, 915 So. 2d 549, 553 (Ala. 2004) (emphasis added by Ifediba).

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