The Clarion-Ledger ran this article on Saturday about Jackson lawyer Wayne Farrell’s lawsuit against Arkansas lawyer Tab Turner. The case is a fee dispute among lawyers over the presumed multi-million dollar settlement in the Jasper County Cole v. Ford Motor lawsuit that resulted in a $132 million jury verdict. The case settled shortly after the verdict.

Now the plaintiffs’ lawyers are fighting over the attorney’s fees:

Jackson lawyer Wayne Ferrell Jr. is suing Arkansas lawyer C. Tab Turner and others in Jasper County Chancery Court, seeking to force Turner to abide by a 2006 attorney-fee sharing agreement.

 The attorneys agreed legal fees and expenses would be split 28 percent for Ferrell, 23 percent for Turner and other attorneys would share the rest. In early 2005, a new contingency fee was worked out with attorneys to receive 50 percent of the total amount awarded to the family. 

Ferrell said in court papers Turner shut out other attorneys from the decision-making process during settlement negotiations.

After a second mistrial in February, Turner requested Ferrell and other attorneys pay about $600,000 in expenses. He said he had incurred more than $832,000 in expenses from the start of his involvement in the case. From the September trial that resulted in the jury verdict, Ferrell said Turner requested payment in advance for expenses incurred for expert witnesses and trial expenses.

But Ferrell said in court papers that Turner hadn’t provided any proof by way of invoices from expert witnesses.

"Turner has threatened to pay Ferrell nothing from the fee proceeds even though Ferrell procured the case and even though Ferrell has thousands of hours in the case," Ferrell said in court papers.

This has the potential to be the biggest lawyer fee dispute case since the 1999 Dockins v. Allred decision in which the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled on a fee dispute between Hal Dockins and Mike Allred over the attorney’s fees in the Loewen case.

That case resulted in a $500 million dollar verdict in the mid-1990’s. Ironically, most people credit Florida attorney Willie Gary for that verdict even though he avoided the fee dispute. Here is a link to a video of Gary re-enacting his closing argument from the Loewen trial. Here is a link to a law review article that examines the controversial Loewen verdict.

I suspect that the Brian Cole settlement deeply discounted the jury’s verdict. But even a 90% discount would leave the attorneys fighting over millions of dollars in fees. Lawsuits against and among lawyers are often knife fights. I doubt that this one will be any different.