Attorney Fees

Texas Lawyer Ordered to Repay $35.7 M

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A big-name Houston plaintiffs lawyer has been ordered by an arbitration panel to repay $35.7 million in improper legal fees he charged to some 3,000 plaintiffs he represented in breast implant litigation.

Including interest and attorney fees to be paid to the plaintiff lawyer who brought the claim, the total award could reach $60 million, the Houston Chronicle reports. The arbitration panel found John O’Quinn had both overcharged clients and breached his contract with them. However, because the ruling was made against three law firms in his name, it is possible he will not be personally liable for paying the award.

Joe Jamail, a plaintiffs lawyer known as Houston’s King of Torts, was one of the lead lawyers representing the plaintiffs. He called the arbitration ruling, which was announced today, a victory for the bar. “In a contingency case, you must outline expenses, you can’t add them on unilaterally,” he says of Quinn. “He charged off bar dues, he charged off overhead. You just can’t do it. What’s the 40 percent (contingency fee) for if you’re charging off your overhead?”

Quinn apparently did not talk with the newspaper after the ruling was announced, but told the Chronicle in 1999 when the suit was filed that the plaintiffs “got more money than they would have gotten from any other lawyer in America.” He also sued their lawyers for libel, and soon after that “the lawyers all stopped speaking publicly about the case,” the article states.

The fee dispute was decided by arbitration in Rusk County, as Quinn’s fee agreement required. It is ordinarily very difficult to overturn an arbitration award, the newspaper notes.

Amount is $35.7 million, 3:52 p.m. CST 07/19/2007

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