Summary of Feingold v. Pucello
Pennsylvania Superior Court, 1995
Facts: On Feb. 2, 1979, Barry Pucello (defendant) was involved in a motor vehicle accident. One of his co-workers got an attorney to aid him. Allen Fiengold (plaintiff) was a personal injury lawyer. Plaintiff called the defendant to get information on what happened and the two discussed the possibility of being represented in court, but Feingold made no agreements on his fee. Feingold then went to work on the case, taking pictures, gathering reports, spending his time and money into helping Pucello. Towards the end of Feb., plaintiff sent defendant a fee which called for a 50/50 split of the recovery. Defendant balked at the fee and immediately fired plaintiff. Plaintiff brings suit a year later in quantum meriuit (with arbitrators instead of judges and jury). A board of arbitrators found for defendant and plaintiff appeals.
Issue: Is there a remedy to be found if there is no written contract between client and attorney?
Rule: The rule requires attorneys to put contingency fee agreements in writing. The rule was rescinded because it duplicated Rule 1.5 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, which requires attorneys to state their contingency fee in writing before, or within a reasonable time after commencing representation.
Reasoning: Fein gold (pl) s proposed fee of 50% recovery was extremely high. It struck the trial court as unethical. By having his fee so high, he should have expected clients to balk which makes the argument for the fee agreement in writing even more important. Even without these equitable considerations, plaintiffs claim still fails on its own merits. In rejecting the fee, defendant told plaintiff to keep his work-product. Thus plaintiff did not confer any tangible benefit on defendant.
Holding: Judgment is affirmed. Judge Beck also concurs with J. Del Sole.