Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Attorney fee agreements are evaluated at the time of their making and must be fair, reasonable, and fully explained to the client. Such contracts are strictly construed against the attorney.
Defendants, clients and corporation, were quoted billing rates for two of Severson and Werson’s (Severson) attorneys. Defendants agreed to the terms of that fee agreement letter. Severson then represented defendants, and eventually brought an action against defendants for unpaid fees. The trial court awarded Severson its fees, with interest and attorneys' fees. Defendant appealed.
Did the trial court err in not construing the fee provisions in the client's favor as to the charges for the services of the two attorneys whose rates were quoted?
The court reversed the judgment that was in favor of Severson because Severson had drafted an agreement which did not specify what its "regular hourly rates" were after having quoted to defendants specific rates for two of its attorneys. The agreement contained no language pertaining to rate changes during the course of representation, nor could defendants determine from the bills received that the agreed-upon rates had been increased. Under those circumstances, the fee provisions should have been construed in defendants' favor as to the charges for the services of the two specific attorneys. The court remanded for a hearing on damages, prejudgment interest, costs, and attorney fees, because the resolution of those issues depended upon the amount of the underlying judgment.