Lee v. Thompson

Herbert Lee Jr., the attorney who handled the 2001 settlement of thirteen diet-drug claims (for approximately $32 million), agreed that six percent of the gross settlement would be used to pay for “common benefit” discovery materials generated in the federal multi-district litigation (MDL) of the claims. Lee billed the MDL fee to the plaintiffs. After the settlement, the MDL court ordered a partial refund of the fee. Two of the plaintiffs, Gloria Thompson and Deborah Dixon, sued Lee, alleging that his attorney’s fee had exceeded the amount set out in the retainer agreement and that he had failed to accurately refund their portions of the MDL fee. The trial court granted summary judgment to Lee on the contract issue and to the plaintiffs on the MDL fee issue. Both Lee and the plaintiffs appealed, and in "Lee I)," the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a trial on the contract issue. The Court affirmed summary judgment on the MDL fee issue, but remanded for the trial court to “determine if the MDL fees were paid in accordance a MDL Pre-Trial Order . . . and if not, to order such distribution.” On remand, the jury found in favor of Lee. The trial court determined that the MDL fees had not been paid in accordance with the MDL pretrial order, and ordered that Lee pay Thompson $420,000 and Dixon $180,000. Lee appealed, arguing: (1) the Supreme Court erred in "Lee I" by finding that the MDL order required him to pay the entire MDL fee from his attorney’s fees; (2) the plaintiffs were entitled to only $140,000 and $60,000 based on a prior representation of their attorney as to the amount owed; and (3) the plaintiffs’ warranted dismissal with prejudice due to their wrongful conduct. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that Lee’s assertion that the pretrial orders did not require to him to pay the entire MDL fee was decided in the first appeal and was barred by the law of the case doctrine. Furthermore, the Court found that the plaintiffs’ letter brief did not constitute a binding admission on the amount of damages and that Lee’s assertion that the plaintiffs should have been sanctioned for misconduct was procedurally barred. View "Lee v. Thompson" on Justia Law