Friday, December 16, 2011

Crockett & Myers Ltd v. Napier, Fitzgerald & Kirby LLP (9th Cir. - Dec. 16, 2011)

You're really going to make us to this ourselves?

One law firm refers a medical malpractice case to another law firm expecting a one-third (or one-half) referral fee, which is the usual practice and/or the practice pursuant to an alleged agreement.  The prosecuting firm then obtains a half-million dollar fee in the case, but doesn't share.  At which point the referring fee sues.

Judge Pro decides that there was no binding agreement (so no 50/50 split), but that the referring firm should receive a quantum meruit recovery, which he sets at $33,000.  Back in 2009, the Ninth Circuit reverses, holding -- in a published opinion -- that, no, $33,000 isn't the right figure, and remanding so the district court can recalculate the award.

The case then goes back to Judge Pro.  Who responds to the Ninth Circuit's holding by recalculating the award and holding that the reasonable value was . . . $33,000.  The same award he had made before.

Yet another appeal to the Ninth Circuit.  Yet another reversal.  This time by a different panel, because the first panel is already tired of the case and doesn't feel like dealing with it anymore.

And which point the Ninth Circuit has three options.  Remand the csae to Judge Pro yet again, hoping that the third time's a charm.  Remand the case to a different judge, but that's somewhat insulting and burdens yet another judge with the dispute.

Or simply resolve the case themselves.  Which is what they do.

Sure, it requires some factual findings, which appellate courts are loathe to do.  But we want this case finished, gosh darn it.  So we're telling you the number.  One hundred thousand dollars.  We're done.  Go away.

Six judges on the Ninth Circuit is the most that we're willing to throw at a $100,000 referral dispute between lawyers.