Massachusetts Legal Malpractice Contingent Fee Offset
In a Massachusetts legal malpractice post verdict ruling that was decided by Superior Court Judge John C. Cratsley of the Suffolk Superior Court held that a verdict of $81,250 against Attorney Dane M. Shulman would not be reduced by the one third contingent fee notwithstanding the fact that had Attorney Shulman won the underlying case, the client would have had the reduction because of the fee agreement.
In this case, Rodrigo Cintra, a pedestrian at work, was injured when he was struck by a vehicle driven by someone on his cell phone, not paying attention. Mr. Cintra was seriously injured. He hired attorney Shulman who filed suit but neglected to serve the defendant. He neglected to rectify the failure to serve, and Mr. Cintra lost his rights to a trial. Wherefore, he retained a Massachusetts legal malpractice lawyer.
After the trial against his lawyer, where he won $81,250, Attorney Shulman moved to have the verdict reduced by 33% because of the initial fee agreement. After all, he argued, Mr. Cintra would have been made whole had he received the money, minus the 33%. Thus, he requested this as an “offset.” However, in a well reasoned response, Judge Cratsley distinguished this case from the Federal Moores v. Greenberg. In this case, Shulman “failed to show up at the starting gate” the Judge said, and “an offset for the unearned contingency fee would be inequitable.”