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Litigation: Resolving fee disputes before things get ugly

Taking advantage of ADR mechanisms to avoid litigation with clients

On November 6, 1906, attorney Albert Sillers was busy working in his office in Washington, D.C. Shortly after noon that day, iron worker and former police officer Thomas Reidy quietly entered Sillers’ office, rawhide horsewhip in hand, and began lashing the lawyer, administering what a newspaper account of the incident described as “terrible punishment.” A dozen or more people witnessed the assault, which left Sillers with a gash on his chin that stretched nearly from ear to ear.

Reidy was angered by Sillers’ refusal to return a disputed $50 legal fee to his wife, Mrs. Reidy. Mrs. Reidy had retained Sillers two months earlier to bring a suit in equity to partition property left to Mrs. Reidy and her brother by their mother. The Reidys believed that another lawyer had done the actual work and wanted Sillers to return the money, which he refused to do. Sillers’ understated reaction to the assault was, “I see no reason for Mr. Reidy’s actions in this matter.”

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Jim Steele

Jim Steele is a member at Carr Maloney. He counsels insurers on complex coverage matters and litigates insurance coverage disputes. He also defends clients in...

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