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Lopped Fees Vex Plaintiffs Lawyers

Posted Aug 10, 2007 7:29 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Hostility to contingent fees can mean financial disaster for law firms, if the people who are hostile are judges.

Yesterday, Austin, Texas, plaintiffs lawyer George Fleming told of his contingent fee battle after he won lawsuits over defective polybutylene pipe on behalf of thousands of clients. Fleming spoke at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

“Fleming hired 49 law firms in 13 states, propounded 40,000 interogatories, paid for 35,500 home inspections, took 8,000 depositions, tried six cases, won them, then beat back 16 appeals, including three to the Texas Supreme Court,” the ABA Journal reports.

Then, after the case was over, a judge eliminated $80 million in contingent fees and lopped off $11 million charged costs. “An agreed-on 20 percent contingency shrank to 4 percent with the stroke of a pen,” the Journal story says. Fleming was broke and he couldn’t take on any more cases until he got the fees restored in appeals three years later.

In a different case, an appeals court recently reinstated a contingent fee in an arbitration case. ABAJournal.com has details.

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