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Slim v. Abuzaid

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

August 28, 2017

JULES P. SLIM, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH ABUZAID and MUAMAR ANANI, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Sam A. Lindsay United States District Judge

         Before the court is the Motion of Joseph Abuzaid for Summary Judgment (Doc. 27), filed May 22, 2017; and Plaintiff Jules Slim's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 35), filed June 16, 2017. After considering the motions, briefs, objections, admissible summary judgment evidence, and applicable law, the court denies the Motion of Joseph Abuzaid for Summary Judgment (Doc. 27); and denies Plaintiff Jules Slim's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 35), as it determines that a genuine dispute of material fact exists regarding Plaintiffs entitlement to the declartory relief requested in this action.

         I.Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Jules Slim ("Slim" or "Plaintiff) originally brought this action by intervening in a state court action filed by Defendant Joseph Abuzaid ("Abuzaid" or "Defendant") against Muamar Anani ("Anani") in the 95th Judicial District Court, Dallas County, Texas. Slim was Abuzaid's former counsel in the state court action before moving to withdraw as counsel on December 8, 2014. Slim intervened in the state court action to enforce his right to payment under a contingency fee agreement ("Agreement") executed between him and Abuzaid in March 2014.

         Slim asserts that Abuzaid formally and constructively terminated his employment as counsel in the state court action. Slim, therefore, contends that he is entitled to recover his contingency fee pursuant to the Agreement because he did not voluntarily withdraw as Abuzaid's counsel in the state court action. Abuzaid denies firing Slim.

         Slim asserts that, instead of seeking to enforce his right to a 25% lien interest under the Agreement against any other attorney's fee award, he seeks a declaration of his rights as a judgment creditor with respect to his contractual lien interest to secure his interest in any money transmitted to Abuzaid in satisfaction of the state court judgment. In this regard, Slim requests that:

he be granted judgment creditor status in the above[]referenced cause, and that he may order execution, writs, and all other remedies available for collection of same, for up to and including 25% of Abuzaid's recovery, not including attorneys' fees of other attorneys, plus Mr. Slim's own attorneys' fees incurred in prosecution of this intervention, any postjudgment matters, appeal to the Dallas Court of Appeals, or petition for review to the Texas Supreme Court, plus costs. Plaintiff Slim further prays that this Court declare his contractual and equitable lien in full force and effect against both defendants such as to protect his interests.

Pl.'s Am. Compl. 5.* Slim clarifies that he "does not seek attorneys' fees against Anani provided Anani does not contest the factual allegations or position asserted [in the Amended Complaint]." Id. Slim does, however, seek to recover attorney's fees against Abuzaid "in prosecution of this declaratory judgment [action] in enforcement of lien interest." Id. at 4.

         On March 30, 2016, a jury entered a verdict in Abuzaid's favor against Anani in the state court action. Slim's action in intervention against Abuzaid was severed from the state court action so that the judgment entered in that case could become final. On June 24, 2016, Slim removed the severed action to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction. Slim added Anani as a "Nominal This portion of Plaintiff s Amended Complaint appears to have been taken from a prior state court pleading.

         Defendant" in this case on April 13, 2017, out of concern that Abuzaid was attempting to reach a settlement with Anani to forego all attorney's fees and any lien interests by attorneys with respect to the amounts owed under the state judgment. As noted below, Abuzaid and Slim both moved for summary judgment with respect to the relief requested by Plaintiff.

         II. Summary Judgment Motions

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment shall be granted when the record shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.317, 323-25 (1986); Ragas v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., 136 F.3d 455, 458 (5th Cir. 1998). A dispute regarding a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When ruling on amotion for summary judgment, the court is required to view all facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and resolve all disputed facts in favor of the nonmoving party. Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., Inc., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005). Further, a court "may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence" in ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254-55.

         Once the moving party has made an initial showing that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the party opposing the motion must come forward with competent summary judgment evidence of the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio,475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). On the other hand, "if the movant bears the burden of proof on an issue, either because he is the plaintiff or as a defendant he is asserting an affirmative defense, he must establish beyond peradventure all of the essential elements of the claim or defense to warrant judgment in his favor." Fontenot v. Upjohn Co.,780 F.2d 1190, 1194 (5th Cir. 1986) (emphasis in original). "[When] the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine [dispute] for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. (citation omitted). Mere conclusory allegations are not competent summary judgment evidence, and thus are insufficient to defeat a motion for ...


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