Dunn v. Dart (Lawyers Weekly No. 12-16-0920, 12 pp.) (Martha A. Geer, J.) Appealed from Craven County Superior Court (James L. Gale, J.) N.C. App. Unpub.
Holding: The parties, who served as counsel for some of the plaintiffs in a class action, never entered into a written fee-splitting agreement. Even in their email exchanges, the parties never reached agreement on the material terms of such a contract.
We affirm summary judgment for defendants.
Plaintiff contends that he was entitled to one-sixth of the total fee amount awarded to the parties in the underlying consolidated class action. Instead of the $350,000 he expected, plaintiff was only awarded $75,000, while defendant Dart received $995,000 and defendant Zaytoun received $670,000.
There is no evidence that the parties’ clients ever agreed to the alleged fee-sharing agreement. However, we need not decide whether a failure to comply with N.C. Rev. R. Prof. Cond. 1.5(e) precludes enforcement of any fee-sharing agreement because plaintiff has failed to show that the parties ever entered into any such agreement in the first place.
Although plaintiff and defendant Dart had split a fee in a previous lawsuit and discussed proceeding along the same lines in the underlying class action, defendant Zaytoun was not a part of that conversation or the previous lawsuit.
The parties communicated by email about a fee-sharing arrangement, but the emails reflect uncertainty concerning who would bear the expenses of the lawsuit and who would participate in the fee-splitting agreement. Because plaintiff has not pointed to any evidence that an agreement as to all material terms of a fee-splitting agreement, including the identity of the participants and the specifics of how the parties would address expenses, he has failed to show the existence of an enforceable contract.