New Legal Developments

Oral Fee Agreement Voidable by Client — California Attorney Ethics — Civil

Leighton v. Forster (2017) 8 Cal.App.5th 467

Attorney worked as a contract associate for a semi-retired lawyer, who died during the pendency of a case they were both working on. Client refused to sign a new fee agreement with Attorney. Attorney nevertheless performed another $114,000.00 of services, and then sued for payment nearly 4 years after the representation ended.
Held: Fee agreement was voidable at the option of the Client because it was not signed. The 2-year statute of limitations had run on a quantum meruit claim.
However, this case really turned on the contractual relationship between the attorney and the dead lawyer. If they had been partners, for instance, this case might have turned out differently, because the dead lawyer had a valid written fee agreement with the Client.