February 4, 2020 in case summaries
Jeff Levinger successfully represented Houston-based law firm Cokinos, Bosien & Young in its effort to overturn a $2 million judgment awarded to the estate of a general counsel employed by a Cokinos client. In an unusual set of facts, the former general counsel of Ruhrpumpen, Inc. alleged that the Cokinos firm had promised to pay him 20 percent of a contingent fee that the firm and Ruhrpumpen had negotiated in connection with a lawsuit against a competitor. After the general counsel died, the litigation settled and Ruhrpumpen paid the firm a seven-figure contingent fee. The estate then sued to recover a 20 percent share of the fee, and the trial court rendered summary judgment in its favor. The Dallas Court of Appeals reversed and rendered a take-nothing judgment, holding that the alleged fee-sharing agreement was void because Ruhrpumpen had not consented to it in writing, as Texas Disciplinary Rule 1.04(f) requires. In rejecting the estate’s argument that the general counsel had authority as Ruhrpumpen’s agent to consent to the fee-sharing agreement, the court held that the general counsel owed Ruhrpumpen a fiduciary duty not to accept compensation outside of his salary and thus could not consent to the fee-sharing agreement without first disclosing it to Ruhrpumpen. The court further rejected the estate’s efforts to avoid altogether the requirements of Rule 1.04(f). Cokinos, Bosien & Young v. Sheila Moore, as Independent Executor of the Estate of Eugene H. Moore, No. 05-18-01340-CV, 2020 WL 549066 (Tex. App.—Dallas Feb. 4, 2020, no pet.).