In plaintiffs’ breach of contract action,

In plaintiffs’ breach of contract action, plaintiffs’ appealed the judgment for defendant by the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California) based on plaintiffs’ lack of viable contract with defendants because contract did not comply with Cal. R. Prof. Conduct 2-200. Defendants cross-appealed from imposition of sanctions on them.

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Overview

Plaintiff attorney and law firm sued defendant attorney and law firm for breach of contract, contending that they were contractually entitled to 50 percent of the attorney’s fees that defendants ultimately received in certain underlying litigation for their efforts in referring the case to defendants. The trial court entered a judgment for defendants, finding that plaintiffs did not have a viable contract with defendants because the contract did not comply with Cal. R. Prof. Conduct 2-200. On appeal, the court affirmed. Equitable estoppel was not available to plaintiffs to overcome defendants’ assertion of Rule 2-200 as a defense to the action, since plaintiffs’ reliance on defendant attorney’s promise to comply with that provision was not sufficiently reasonable to relieve plaintiffs from the requirements of that provision. The policy considerations which drove the enactment of Rule 2-200 also required that the fee sharing agreement among the parties not be enforced by the court.

Outcome

Trial court’s judgment was affirmed. Because client had not consented in writing to division of attorney’s fees among the parties, plaintiffs did not have a viable contract with defendants to share attorney’s fees due to plaintiffs’ referral of client to defendant.