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11/03/88 Ronald Achs, v. Charles Maddox

November 3, 1988

RONALD ACHS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT AND CROSS-APPELLEE

v.

CHARLES MADDOX, DEFENDANT (PETER THOMAS SMITH ET AL., PETITIONERS-APPELLEES AND CROSS-APPELLANTS)



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT

530 N.E.2d 612, 175 Ill. App. 3d 989, 125 Ill. Dec. 454 1988.IL.1606

Appeal from the Circuit Court of De Kalb County; the Hon. Rex F. Meilinger, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE REINHARD delivered the opinion of the court. NASH and WOODWARD, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE REINHARD

Petitioners, attorneys Peter Thomas Smith and Leonard M. Ring and Associates, represented plaintiff Ronald Achs, pursuant to a written contingent fee agreement in the litigation of a personal injury suit against Charles Maddox. After entry of a judgment in Achs' favor for $12,142.72 following a jury trial, petitioners filed a motion in the circuit court requesting a finding of attorney liens in the amount of $4,047.57 for fees and $6,751.91 for costs incurred by petitioners. The circuit court found that petitioners held equitable attorney liens and entered judgment for petitioners in the amount of $4,014 for fees and $1,986 for costs in the proceeds of a check issued in satisfaction of the judgment against Maddox. Achs appeals, and petitioners cross-appeal the trial court's finding of a lien for only a portion of the costs petitioners claim were incurred.

On September 11, 1984, plaintiff Ronald Achs and petitioner Peter Thomas Smith executed an agreement under which Achs employed Smith to act as his attorney in connection with Achs' claim for personal injuries and property damage arising from a motor vehicle accident in De Kalb County on September 5, 1984. The agreement contained the following provisions:

"2. COMPENSATION: CLIENT agrees to pay a contingent fee for legal services rendered based upon a percentage of the amount recovered or settlement obtained payable as follows:

33 1/3% percent of whatever may be recovered from said claim, either by suit, settlement or in any manner. The contingent fee shall be determined prior to deduction for costs advanced. . . .

3. COSTS AND EXPENSES: CLIENT further agrees to reimburse ATTORNEY for any and all necessary costs and expenses incurred or paid out in behalf of CLIENT in connection with the legal services rendered. CLIENT shall reimburse ATTORNEY for said costs or expenses on a monthly basis unless otherwise agreed in writing.

6. RETENTION OF RECOVERY: CLIENT agrees that ATTORNEY may receive any recovery pursuant to a settlement or a judgment and that he may retain therefrom any fee and reimbursement of expenses as provided above before disbursing the remainder to CLIENT. . . .

8. ATTORNEY LIEN: CLIENT agrees that ATTORNEY shall have a lien upon all claims, demands and causes of action, including all claims for unliquidated damages, which may be placed in their [ sic ] hands by CLIENT for suit or collection, or upon which suit or action has been instituted, for the amount of any fee which may have been agreed upon by and between ATTORNEY and CLIENT."

On February 14, 1985, a complaint was filed against Charles Maddox in connection with the September 5 collision. On October 1, 1985, at the request of Achs, Smith entered into an agreement with petitioner Leonard M. Ring and Associates under which Leonard M. Ring and Associates accepted primary responsibility for litigating Achs' claim against Maddox. On August 27, 1986, judgment was entered on the jury verdict in favor of Achs in the amount of $12,142.72.

On September 9, 1986, Leonard M. Ring and Associates received a check for the full amount of the judgment, payable to Ronald A. Achs and Leonard M. Ring and Associates. Achs never endorsed the check and on January 9, 1987, he filed a voluntary petition for relief under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code in Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The petition listed Leonard M. Ring and Associates as creditors having unsecured ...


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