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Guy v. Lexington Fayette Urban County Gov't

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

January 29, 2014

KEITH RENE GUY, SR., ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
LEXINGTON FAYETTE URBAN COUNTY GOV'T, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM O. BERTELSMAN, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Roe plaintiffs' motion to quash attorneys' lien (Doc. 652) and the Doe plaintiffs' motion to hold settlement funds (Doc. 666).

The Court held a telephonic hearing on these motions on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Charles Arnold, Gayle Slaughter, and William Huffman represented the Roe plaintiffs. Sharon and Jim Morris represented the Doe plaintiffs. Keith Moorman represented defendant LFUCG. Court reporter Sandy Wilder recorded the proceedings.

Having heard the parties, the Court now issues the following Memorandum Opinion and Order.

Procedural Background

An understanding of the current fee dispute among counsel requires a review of certain events that have transpired over the course of this case.

This case was filed on October 15, 1998, as a putative class action.[1] In January 2000, the four named plaintiffs reached a settlement with defendants. Shortly thereafter, the Court approved the settlement, but it did not give notice thereof to the members of the putative class.

On March 3, 2000, attorney Gayle Slaughter entered her appearance on behalf of the remaining plaintiffs (Doc. 71), then the single group comprising the putative class. At that time, Slaughter entered into contingency fee agreements with her clients.[2]

Later in 2000, Slaughter and Huffman solicited the involvement of Lexington attorneys Sharon and James Morris. Slaughter submitted to the Morrises a proposed "Agreement and Contingency Fee Arrangement, " the key terms of which were that: (1) the Morrises would be retained as co-counsel and, although "subordinate" to Slaughter and Huffman, would nonetheless be denominated "lead counsel" in court filings; (2) the agreement did not create any contractual relationship between the Morrises and the plaintiffs; (3) the Morrises would be paid one-third of the 40% contingency fee that Slaughter and Huffman would receive from any recovery by their clients; and (4) in the event that the Morrises did not continue in the case, they would be entitled to recover a fee proportional to the time and effort they expended in the case. (Doc. 652-2).

The Morrises maintain that they never saw this agreement and that they were under the impression that they were "involved in" the contingency fee contracts between Slaughter and the plaintiffs. At the recent hearing, Slaughter stated that it was her recollection that some contingency arrangements were proposed by the Morrises, but that no agreement was reached.

In any event, it is undisputed that the written agreement allegedly proffered by Slaughter was never signed, and counsel otherwise never memorialized, or indeed ever reached, a meeting of the minds as to the financial terms of their collaboration.

From 2000 forward, the Slaughter/Huffman group and the Morrises all worked on behalf of the proposed class in various capacities.

In the meantime, appeals from this Court's rulings relating to the settlement and motions to intervene by other individuals were taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

On May 5, 2005, the Sixth Circuit held that the district court had abused its discretion in not giving notice of the settlement to the putative class. See Doe, 407 F.3d at 763-64. The Sixth Circuit thus vacated the judgment ...


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