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O'Leary v. America Online, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

March 17, 2014

DAWN K. O'LEARY, ROSA M. WHITE, ROBERT BAILEY, PAULA BAILEY, NANCY PRILLMAN, KIM CHEATWOOD, and JOSE SANCHEZ, Individually and on Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
AMERICA ONLINE, INC., and ICT GROUP, INC., Defendants (Freed & Weiss, LLC, Movant-Appellee and Cross-Appellant; and Diab & Bock, LLC (n/k/a Bock & Hatch, LLC), Respondent-Appellant and Cross-Appellee)

Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. Nos. 03-L-491 & 05-L-669. Honorable Andrew J. Gleeson, Judge, presiding.

Affirmed.

SYLLABUS

In a dispute over the attorney fees in a class action case, the trial court's order finding that movant had no obligation to pay respondent a one-third share of certain attorney fees earned in the underlying class action, and the subsequent order requiring movant to retender to respondent a check in the amount of $50,000, were affirmed on appeal, since the testimony supported the conclusion that regardless of the question of whether a joint venture existed with regard to the underlying action, there was an agreement that respondent would be paid $50,000.

For Appellants: Robert J. Sprague, Sprague & Urban, Belleville, IL; Phillip A. Bock, Bock & Hatch, LLC, Chicago, IL.

For Appellees: Kevin T. Hoerner, Becker, Paulson & Hoerner, P.C., Belleville, IL; Richard J. Burke, Complex Litigation Group, LLC, St. Louis, MO.

JUSTICE SPOMER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Welch and Justice Chapman concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

SPOMER, JUSTICE

Page 873

[¶1] In this dispute involving the payment of attorney fees, the respondent, Diab & Bock, LLC (now known as Bock & Hatch, LLC) (Bock), appeals the order of the circuit court of St. Clair County that found that the movant, Freed & Weiss, LLC (Weiss), was not obliged to pay Bock a one-third share of certain attorney fees earned in the underlying class action case captioned above. Weiss cross-appeals with regard to a subsequent order in this case in which the trial judge ordered Weiss to retender to Bock a check in the amount of $50,000. For the following reasons, we affirm both orders of the circuit court.

[¶2] FACTS

[¶3] The facts necessary to our disposition of this appeal are as follows. On May 16, 2008, Bock filed a freestanding lawsuit in Cook County demanding payment from

Page 874

Weiss of one-third[1] of the attorney fees received in this case. Weiss filed a motion within this case, in St. Clair County, to, inter alia, determine the amount of fees, if any, owed to Bock, and the trial judge subsequently held that the parties had stipulated, in open court, to the resolution of this dispute by the circuit court of St. Clair County. Evidence was adduced at two hearings, the first on August 23, 2010, and the second on February 17, 2011. At the first hearing, Paul Weiss was the only witness to testify. He testified in substantial detail about how Bock became involved in this case. According to Weiss, Bock was brought in, along with approximately 20 other attorneys, on or around the date the case was settled, so that the clients of those attorneys would be covered by the settlement. Weiss testified that the client Bock represented, Rosa White, was not an essential plaintiff to the settlement of the case, and that Bock was brought in so that White could " get a class representative payment" and so that Bock " was able to make some money." Weiss noted that in the past, Bock had brought Weiss into cases, and that Weiss thought bringing Bock into this action was " a fair thing to do." Weiss testified that he personally told Bock that Bock would be paid $50,000, and in fact presented Bock with a check for $50,000. He testified that no other agreement with regard to paying Bock for the case existed, and that Bock was not listed in settlement papers as settlement class counsel because Bock had virtually no ...


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