United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
ORDER ON MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES
B. WHITEHURST, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is Motion For Attorney's Fees Cost and Expenses
of Intervenors, Errol Cormier and Errol L. Cormier APLC's
(collectively “Cormier”) [Rec. Doc. 183], a Brief
Opposing Motion For Attorney's Fees filed by Joseph F.
Gaar, Jr. (“Gaar”) [Rec. Doc. 185] and
Cormier's Reply thereto [Rec. Doc. 188].
Simar (“Plaintiff”) hired Cormier as his attorney
on July 21, 2014 to represent him in connection with an
accident and injury that occurred on June 24, 2014, while he
was employed as a rigger on an offshore platform. Cormier and
Plaintiff executed a Contingency Fee Agreement on July 21,
2014 that provided compensation to Cormier in the amount of
one-third (33 1/3%) of the aggregate recovery if
Plaintiff's claims were settled prior to filing suit and
forty (40%) percent if recovery was obtained after a lawsuit
was filed. Plaintiff's lawsuit in this case was filed on
June 23, 2015.
Affidavit dated June 19, 2019, Plaintiff states that on
February 17, 2017, he terminated the services of Cormier
expressing his dissatisfaction with Cormier's
representation, in particular his failure to bring any
partial or full resolution to the case. R. 185-3,
Plaintiff's Aff. On the same day, Plaintiff
retained Joseph F. Gaar, Jr., APLC, as his new attorney.
Id. Gaar enrolled in this action as counsel for
Plaintiff on March 15, 2017. R. 49. Cormier filed a Complaint
in Intervention on March 16, 2017. R. 52.
14, 2019, Plaintiff and the defendants and/or intervenors in
this action reached an amicable resolution in this case. The
settlement did not include Cormier's intervention
claiming attorney's fees and expenses prior to March 20,
2017. Therefore, on June 5, 2019, the Court ordered Cormier
on or before June 14, 2019, to “file a motion for
attorney's fees and costs complete with billing records
and supporting affidavits outlining and documenting the
hourly rates and time incurred in the representation of this
action before March 20, 2017.” R. 182.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
courts have long approved of the contingent fee contract to
compensate attorneys. O'Rourke v. Cairns, 683
So.2d 697, 700 (La.1996). Contingency fee contracts, like all
other attorney fee contracts, are subject to review and
control by the courts-most notably for reasonableness.
Id. (citing Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule
Louisiana law, when two attorneys provide legal services to
the same client on a contingency-fee basis and one attorney
is discharged before the case is resolved, the client is
obligated to pay only one contingency fee that the court
allocates between the attorneys. Saucier v. Hayes Dairy
Products, Inc., 373 So.2d 102, 118 (La.1979). The amount
of the fee is “determined according to the highest
ethical contingency percentage to which the client
contractually agreed in any of the contingency fee contracts
which he executed.” Id. And the apportionment
of the fee between the attorneys is based on the factors
listed in Rule 1.5 of the Louisiana Rules of Professional
Conduct, which together are directed at assessing the
reasonableness of a fee. See id. at 116, 118. The
factors (commonly known as “the Saucier
factors”) include, inter alia “the time
and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the
questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the
legal service properly;” “the amount involved and
the results obtained;” and “the nature and length
of the professional relationship with the client.” La.
R. Prof'l Conduct 1.5; accord Saucier, 373 So.2d
at 116. The purpose of applying these factors is to ensure
that the fee is divided “according to the respective
services and contributions of the attorneys for work
performed and other relevant factors.” Saucier
at 118. An attorney's representation must “advance
[the] client's case” and have some
“productive value to [the] client” in order for
the attorney to recover any part of the applicable
contingency fee. See City of Alexandria v. Brown,
740 F.3d 339, 351-52 (5th Cir.2014).
first attorney was discharged without cause, then the
application of the Saucier factors marks the end of
the analysis. Id. at 118. If, however, the first
attorney was discharged for cause, then the court must next
“consider the nature and gravity of the cause which
contributed to the dismissal and reduce by a percentage
amount the portion discharged counsel would receive after the
Saucier allocation.” O'Rourke v.
Cairns, 683 So.2d 697, 704 (La.1996). Here, Plaintiff
contends he discharged Cormier for cause.
CLAIM FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES
Discharge For Cause
Louisiana law, a finding of discharge for cause does not
simply depend upon a finding that the Rules of Professional
Conduct were violated. Osborne v. Vulcan Foundry,
Inc., 699 So.2d 492, 497 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1997). Rather,
Louisiana courts look to whether the client's confidence
was eroded by the actions or inactions of the attorney.
See, e.g., O'Rourke v. Cairns, 683 So.2d 697,
703 (La. 1996).
Motion, Cormier argues that “no compelling argument can
be made that he was discharged for cause.” He contends
that after Plaintiff's surgery was approved in February
2017, Plaintiff left a voice mail stating that he would
“take the $75, 000” offer to settle his
worker's compensation case. Contrary to Cormier's
contention, Plaintiff stated in his Affidavit, executed on
June 19, 2019, that during the 2 1/2 years as his attorney,
July 1, 2014 to February 17, 2017, Cormier “did not
talk [with him] much on the phone or in person” and
“when he did ... could not tell [him] that any ...