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Five Firms in Attorney Fee Free-for-All

Posted Sep 27, 2007 4:23 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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After fighting together to win a settlement in a class action over mortgage lender closing costs, a group of Illinois plaintiffs lawyers squared off for a new battle—fighting with each other about how to divide the $1.6 million attorney fee.

It appears that a badly drafted attorney fee letter agreement increased the contention and made the fee-splitting job harder than it had to be. Among at least five sets of plaintiffs lawyers involved, two—Tim Campbell of Godfrey, Ill., and Emert Wyss, of Alton, Ill.—agreed to accept five percent and 10 percent, respectively, reports the Madison County Record.

But the plaintiffs firms to which they made this offer, Freed and Weiss of Chicago, and the Lakin Law Firm of Wood River, Ill., simplified it, the legal newspaper recounts. In a responding letter, they agreed Campbell and Wyss "will receive a total of 15 percent of the net attorneys' fees."

That letter was a counteroffer which Campbell accepted, creating a binding contract, ruled Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder. So, when Wyss renounced his share of the fee—apparently after discovering that he had accidentally sued himself in the class action—that meant Campbell was legally entitled to the full 15 percent.

Crowder's decision upped the ante for Campbell from $157,785.58 to $236,678.37, and required the other plaintiff firms that had accepted attorney fees, including Diab and Bock of Chicago, to hand over the difference to Campbell.

Madison County Record ("Alton attorney accidentally sues himself").

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