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Documented Efforts to Collect Attorney’s Fees (Part 6)

by merlin on September 18th, 2015
  • Sumo

I apologize to my diligent readers; I have been somewhat less than diligent” in keeping up with this, and thus find myself in the current situation of summarizing several steps taken in this collection case since my last post on the topic.

Needless to say, the Complaint is not a stand-alone document; in addition to the bare-bones contract between the parties (the attorney-client agreement, in this case), the payment history, and a 10-day letter that gives the party one final chance to try to resolve the dispute some way other than by lawsuit, the Complaint needs to also include any other documents that are going to make up the full contract.  In this case, a letter confirming the representation was sent to the defendant the same day as the agreement was entered into, in which the nature of the work performed and the scope of the agreement (what it actually requires me to do, and what they must do) are outlined, as well as the specific contract terms (including the bare-bones payment arrangement).  After research and consideration, I reduced my fee by half, in that document.

What I will do here, though, is to present a redacted copy of a motion filed and submitted for service today in this matter, which motion seeks summary judgment on all claims, that explains the steps that have been omitted.  Be aware that there is a further step involved (the proposed Order that should be submitted to the judge granting the motion based on the proofs made), which will be listed in redacted form subsequently to this post (possibly tomorrow).  Also, be aware of an error that I made in the pleadings in this matter – I expected the Defendant to respond to my Discovery, and did not draft it to completely foreclose any argument he might otherwise make.  Rather than submit a second set of requests to admit, and thereby incur further expense without definite reimbursement, I am taking a judgment for less than I might otherwise be entitled to, for the sake of some semblance of certainty.  This is a learning experience for me, as well (it is called “the practice of law”).  The motion (redacted) is below:

MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, FOR 13-6-11 COSTS,

AND FOR 9-15-14 PENALTIES

 

            COMES NOW Plaintiff XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX, LLC, by and through undersigned counsel, and makes and files this, his Motion for Summary Judgment, for 13-6-11 Costs, and for 9-15-14 Penalties, following Defendant XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX’s willful failure or refusal to respond to any of Plaintiff’s lawfully  propounded Discovery items, including Plaintiff’s First Continuing Requests to Admit, and in support thereof states the following:

1.

            On XXXXX XX, 2015, Plaintiff served the following items of Discovery on Defendant by personal service via the XXXXX County Sheriff’s Office:

  • Plaintiff’s First Continuing Interrogatories to Defendant;
  • Plaintiff’s First Continuing Requests to Admit;
  • Plaintiff’s First Continuing Notice to Produce

A copy of each pleading is attached hereto and incorporated as if restated herein as Exhibits “A”, “B”, and “C”, respectively.

2.

            On XXXXX XX, 2015, Plaintiff sent a letter to Defendant via Certified Mail, return receipt requested, a copy of which Post Office receipt is attached hereto and incorporated herein as Exhibit “D”.  The letter explained the potential repercussions of a failure to respond to the submitted Discovery items, repeated the Discovery items requested in case they were unintentionally ignored, gave a deadline for the submission of these items two weeks from the date of the letter, and otherwise met counsel’s obligations for communication as required by Uniform Superior Court Rule 6.4.  A copy of said letter is attached hereto and incorporated herein as Exhibit “E”.

3.

            OCGA Section 9-11-36(a)(2) states that, with respect to the requests for admission that were lawfully made under the provisions governing civil Discovery, the matters are admitted unless “within 30 days after service of the request or within such shorter or longer time as the court may allow, the party to whom the request is directed serves upon the party requesting the admission a written answer or objection addressed to the matter, signed by the party or by his attorney”.  This was never done, and the matters are therefore legally deemed admitted.

4.

                The essential elements of a claim for breach of contract are laid out in Cordell & Cordell, P.C. v. Gao, 331 Ga. App. 522, 526, 771 S.E.2d 196 (Ga. App. 2015), requiring breach and resultant damages to a party with the right to complain about the breach.  The contract in question is the attorney-client agreement between the parties, initially identified in the Complaint for Payment of Outstanding Legal Fees, a copy of which is included herein for reference, attached hereto and incorporated herein as Exhibit “F”.  The payment obligation which is described in Exhibit “F” was modified by the initial engagement letter, in which the total cost of the representation to be rendered was reduced by half, as shown in a copy of the letter attached hereto and incorporated herein as Exhibit “G”.

5.

            The items which are declared admitted for purposes of this lawsuit by operation of law include the following:

8.

            Admit that XXXXX XXXXX initially requested payment by you of at least $250 (Two Hundred Fifty Dollars) on or about XXXXX XX, 2014.

9.

            Admit that you did not make any payment to XXXXX XXXXX  after the request described in #8.

10.

            Admit that you indicated to XXXXX XXXXX at that time that you would make an effort to obtain payment for him.

11.

            Admit that at no time after XXXXX XX, 2014, have you paid any money to XXXXX XXXXX.”

            Nothing in Exhibit “B” has been contested by Defendant to this suit, including its statement that the undersigned had received no payment for at least three months.  Taken together with the admissions made above, this fulfills the requirements of a breach of contract case from Cordell & Cordell, P.C, supra, in that money is owed for a contracted service, admittedly unpaid in breach of that contract, and is sued for as damages by a party with standing to so sue.  In this case, damages that are proven by the pleadings are at least three months’ payment at a rate provided by Exhibit “F”, $500 per month plus $75 per month for documents and miscellaneous costs (a total of $1,725, or One Thousand, Seven Hundred Twenty-Five Dollars), plus the $250 (Two Hundred Fifty Dollars) minimum requested as payment by the letter, which amount was never paid as provided by the admissions made, listed in Exhibit “B”.

6.

            The actions of Defendant have been willful, as exemplified by his failure to respond to Discovery in any way, including his failure to answer any Interrogatory propounded to him or to produce any of the documentary proof he referenced in his Answer to this action.  Further, as is legally admitted by his failure to make any response or objection to #11 of Exhibit “B”, listed above, he has completely disregarded his obligations under contract, and completely disregarded his obligations to this Court.  His willful actions entitle Plaintiff to a grant of all the relief provided for under Code Section 9-15-14, because his behavior lacked substantial justification, according to the application of the plain language of that Code section.

7.

            Section 9-15-14, in pertinent part, states the following:

  • In any civil action in any court of record of this state, reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation shall be awarded to any party against whom another party has asserted a claim, defense, or other position with respect to which there existed such a complete absence of any justiciable issue of law or fact that it could not be reasonably believed that a court would accept the asserted claim, defense, or other position. Attorney’s fees and expenses so awarded shall be assessed against the party asserting such claim, defense, or other position, or against that party’s attorney, or against both in such manner as is just.
  • The court may assess reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation in any civil action in any court of record if, upon the motion of any party or the court itself, it finds that an attorney or party brought or defended an action, or any part thereof, that lacked substantial justification or that the action, or any part thereof, was interposed for delay or harassment, or if it finds that an attorney or party unnecessarily expanded the proceeding by other improper conduct, including, but not limited to, abuses of discovery procedures available under Chapter 11 of this title, the “Georgia Civil Practice Act.” As used in this Code section, “lacked substantial justification” means substantially frivolous, substantially groundless, or substantially vexatious.

8.

            Without submitting a further selection of Requests to Admit, Plaintiff is entitled only to the amount of $1,925 in principal, according to admissions that Defendant is lawfully bound by.  To this may be added the post-judgment interest provided by statute, amounting to one and one-half percent per month from the April 22, 2015, receipt of the 10-day letter, a copy of which is attached hereto and incorporated herein as Exhibit “H”, in the amount of $148.13, and the amount of attorney’s fees permitted for contract collection by OCGA § 13-1-11(a)(2), “15 percent of the first $500.00 of principal and interest owing on such note or other evidence of indebtedness and 10 percent of the amount of principal and interest owing thereon in excess of $500.00”.  The amount of these attorney’s fees is $232.31.  The total judgment, therefore, is $2,305.44, if Defendant had not chosen to be willfully contemptuous of this Court and of Plaintiff’s Complaint and Discovery efforts.

9.

            Under OCGA § 13-6-11, the expenses of litigation are available “where the plaintiff has specially pleaded and has made prayer therefor and where the defendant has acted in bad faith, has been stubbornly litigious, or has caused the plaintiff unnecessary trouble and expense”.  Plaintiff has been required to expend a great deal of time and expense to collect any of the money owed to him, and the actions of Defendant have been the stubbornly litigious and unnecessary cause of that expense.  These costs have included $310 in court costs and fees for Sheriff’s Department service, as shown on the attached receipts, denominated Exhibits “I” and “J”, respectively.  In addition, Plaintiff has been required to pay costs to the United States Postal Service for certified mail, return receipt provided, when sending a notice or letter to Defendant.  These expenses totaled $16.42 (Sixteen Dollars and Forty-Two Cents), copies of which receipts have been attached hereto and incorporated herein as Exhibit “K”.  Lastly, Plaintiff was required to spend money at XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX for expenses related to preparing pleadings for filing and service, in the amount of $11.56 (Eleven Dollars and Fifty-Six Cents), as shown on a copy of the receipts saved relevant to this matter, which copy is attached hereto and incorporated herein as Exhibit “L”.  The total for Plaintiff’s expenses is $337.98 (Three Hundred Thirty-Seven Dollars and Ninety-Eight Cents).

10.

                A penalty of $2,356.58 is appropriate, especially when considering the pleadings brought in this matter by the parties.  These pleadings showed an initial agreed-upon fee of $20,000 that was voluntarily reduced by the undersigned attorney to $10,000, for which he was never paid more than $500, with the remainder of the payments being credit given; in response, Defendant made wild and slanderous accusations, and refused to support these accusations with any proof at all.  However, these the accusations required Plaintiff to prepare any available proof to defeat them, should they manifest in any form.  Defendant should be required to pay at least $5,000 (Five Thousand Dollars) as a fair penalty for his vexatious, groundless, and harassing conduct.

            WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands the following relief:

  1. For the matters requested by Plaintiff that Defendant admit or deny to be declared legally admitted, for purposes of this lawsuit;
  2. For entry of an Order granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff on the contractual liability of Defendant in the amount of $1,925 principal and $148.13 pre-judgment interest;
  3. For entry of damages against Defendant and in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of $232.31 in attorney’s fees for the prosecution of this action;
  4. For the entry of damages against Defendant and in favor of Plaintiff pursuant to the provisions of OCGA § 9-15-14 for harassing or vexatious litigation in the amount of $2,356.58;
  5. For the entry of judgment against Defendant for the reasonable costs incurred by Plaintiff in pursuing this motion, in the amount of $337.98;
  6. For the entry of a total judgment against Defendant in the amount of $5,000; and
  7. For any and all further relief as the Court in its wisdom deems appropriate

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