California Appellate Court Upholds Dismissal of Legal Fee Dispute

Oct 05, 2023

Patrick Maloney and Elizabeth Schaus of the Maloney Firm, APC, Obtain Ruling from California Appellate Court Upholding Dismissal of Legal Fee Dispute.

On Wednesday, September 20, 2023, Patrick Maloney argued to the California 2nd District Court of Appeal that it should uphold a trial court order dismissing a lawyer’s claim for fees from a former client because the suit was filed too late. A day later on Thursday, September 21, 2023, the Court of Appeal issued its opinion, finding that the lawyer had waited too long to file suit and the statute of limitations barred his claims.

The attorney, Robert Kent, had claimed to represent Richard Kay on a contingent fee arrangement. But Kent had not, as required by California Business & Professions Code § 6147, obtained a written fee agreement signed by Kay. Because Kent had not complied with the statute, he was only entitled to receive a reasonable fee for his services, rather than the fee he claimed Kay had agreed to pay. Moreover, because Kent had not obtained a signed fee agreement, he had to file his claim within two years, rather than the four-year period applicable to written fee agreements. Both the trial court and the California Court of Appeal saw through Kent’s excuses, finding that Kent had filed the lawsuit too late because he did so more than two years after last rendering services for Kay.

These rulings reflect that courts will scrutinize a lawyer’s compliance with the rules and requirements governing fee arrangements with clients. Lawyers who fail to follow those rules will likely suffer the consequences, either in the form of a reduced fee or losing their right to payment.

The lawyers at the Maloney Firm represent both lawyers and their former clients in legal malpractice cases, disputes over fees, and claims of breach of fiduciary duty. The firm also provides advice and counsel to lawyers seeking to ensure they have complied with applicable rules and statutes. You may contact Patrick Maloney at Elizabeth Schaus may be reached at

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