An Oregon medical malpractice law firm and an Oregon sole practitioner who undertook the representation of an Oregon man who suffered a catastrophic injury due to medical negligence and won a large Oregon medical malpractice verdict that was subsequently settled for a substantial but reduced amount are fighting in court over the split of the attorney fees that resulted from the settlement.
The Oregon sole practitioner was the original medical malpractice attorney for the plaintiff who brought in the Oregon medical malpractice law firm to take the lead in preparing for and during the medical malpractice trial, to best serve the client’s interests.
The Oregon medical malpractice jury determined that the man was seriously and permanently injured when he was negligently given 18 times the proper dose of medication during surgery in March 2011 that led to his brain damage. The medical malpractice jury awarded the plaintiff compensatory damages in the amount of $12.2 million as a result of the trial that concluded in October 2015. The parties subsequently settled the Oregon medical malpractice case for $10.5 million in order to avoid an appeal by the medical malpractice defendants.
The plaintiff’s attorney fee was $4.2 million of the settlement. The first of two attorney fee payments in the amount of $1.6 million was made in December 2015, after a judge approved the settlement reached with the defendant anesthesiologist and his employer. The sole practitioner agreed to accept 30% ($480,000) of the initial attorney fee despite her claim that she was entitled to 35% ($560,000) of the attorney fee, pursuant to the attorney fee split that she alleges that she and the law firm had agreed upon.
After the defendant hospital paid the second attorney fee payment in the amount of $2.6 million, the sole practitioner allegedly received no part of the payment because the law firm alleged that she had failed to perform her duties and responsibilities with regard to the underlying Oregon medical malpractice case. The law firm filed a complaint in court seeking to have a judge decide the dispute between the law firm and the sole practitioner.
The sole practitioner relies on a letter dated February 7, 2013 that she had received from a partner at the law firm that allegedly states that the law firm would receive 65% of the attorney fee if the case did not settle 45 days prior to trial (the sole practitioner would receive the remaining 35%). She further alleges that an email that she had previously received from the law firm partner that set forth a list of duties and responsibilities that she and the law firm agreed upon was only a preliminary discussion about the possible division of responsibilities that was superseded by the February 7, 2013 letter.
A judge will ultimately decide the proper division of the attorney fees unless the sole practitioner and the law firm can reach an agreement as to the split before the judge makes the determination.
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