I have had several requests for a post about the Court of Appeals’ decision in Forbes v. St. Martin. In the decision, the court voided a contingency contract where the plaintiff’s attorneys were paid a fee of $4.6 million.

The Court’s opinion is 60 pages long and I’ve been very busy at work. So I haven’t had time to study the opinion and write about it.

Judge Larry Primeaux wrote about the opinion this morning. From Judge Primeaux’s post:

The COA reversed and remanded. The ruling is too involved to go into detail here, but the court ruled that Forbes had presented enough evidence that there did exist a genuine issue of material fact so that summary judgment should not have been granted. Some of the findings of the COA: 

St. Martin made over $100,000 in “cash advances” to the Forbes, which they spent on a Bahamian vacation, a Caribbean cruise, a car, a cell phone, and “other personal expenses,” in violation of Rule 1.8(e) of the Rules of Professional Coduct; 

Unauthorized practice of law by St. Martin in Mississippi;

The first contingent-fee contract was made while Forbes was under influence of narcotics; 

The second contract may have been the product of misleading or even fraudulent advice; 

Portions of the contract pertaining to ability to settle without counsel and ability to terminate counsel were in violation of Mississippi’s professional conduct rules. 

So St. Martin returns to trial in chancery unless he can convince the MSSC to take the case on cert. That could happen if the MSSC wants to clarify the law in this area. Or, the high court could let the case finish its run through the trial court and then entertain it later. With millions at stake, it’s inconceivable that a later appeal would not result no matter what the ultimate trial outcome.

Judge Griffis wrote the Court’s opinion.

My Take:

I have only skimmed the opinion. But I do not like Louisiana plaintiff lawyers coming over to Mississippi and basically buying a good personal injury case by paying $100,000 to the plaintiff. If this decision helps curb that practice, then I’m all for it.

Congratulations to Steve Maggio of Gulfport for the big win.