Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff probate attorney is seeking to enforce the contingency fee agreement made with his client before his death on the theory of quantum meruit.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The theory of quantum meruit may not be used to enforce a clearly excessive fee.
Issue. May a clearly excessive fee by upheld under the theory of quantum meruit?
Held. No. The court reversed previous cases holding that an excessive fee may be upheld in some circumstances and determined that an attorney charging a clearly excessive fee has forfeited his right to any fee.
“An attorney who enters into a fee contract… that is clearly excessive [has committed] an ethical transgression of a most flagrant sort… [and should not be permitted] to fall back on the theory of quantum meruit when he unsuccessfully fails to collect a clearly excessive fee.”
Discussion. These types of cases are rare, but attorneys should always remember the court’s right to examine lawyers’ fees based on their general power to regulate the profession.