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Rosenberg v. Levin Case Brief

Summary of Rosenberg v. Levin, 409 So.2d 1016 (1982)

Facts:   Levin hired Rosenberg to perform legal services at an agreed upon fee.  Levin later discharged Rosenberg without cause, and then settled the matter.

Issue: What is the proper basis for compensating an attorney discharged without cause by his client, after he has performed substantial legal services, under a valid contract of employment, quantum meruit, or contract price minus damages ?

Holding: Quantum meruit, but which does not accrue until the happening of the contingency, or the client’s recovery.

Procedure: Trial judge concluded Q.M. and awarded $55K.  D. Ct agreed Q.M but awarded $10K stating the recovery could not exceed the amount the atty would have received.

Rule: The measure of damages is the full contract price, minus damages, services and expenses not expended by the discharged atty; or The reasonable value of services performed prior to discharge.

Rationale: It is in the best interest of the client and the legal profession as a whole to adopt quantum meruit which limits the recovery to the maximum fee set in both fixed and contingency employment contracts.  This is necessary to provide client freedom to substitute attorneys without economic penalty.  Without which the client’s right to discharge an attorney may be illusory and the client may in effect be penalized for exercising the right.  An attorney employed under a valid contract, who is discharged without cause before the contingency has occurred or before the client’s matters have concluded can recover only the reasonable value or his services rendered prior to discharge, limited to the maximum contract fee. The trial court should consider the totality of circumstances surrounding the professional relationship between the attorney and client; factors such as time, recovery sought, skill demanded, the results obtained, and the contract itself.



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