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Sewell v. Guillory

Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont

December 21, 2017

EFREM D. SEWELL, Appellant
v.
JOSEPH GUILLORY II, Appellee And EFREM D. SEWELL, Appellant
v.
ZURICH AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellee

          Submitted on July 11, 2017

         On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 1 Jefferson County, Texas Trial Cause No. 127, 976

          Before McKeithen, C.J., Horton and Johnson, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LEANNE JOHNSON JUSTICE

         This dispute relates to the payment of attorney's fees. In cause number 127, 976, filed in the Jefferson County Court at Law No. 1, attorney Efrem Sewell (Appellant or Sewell), filed suit against two parties: his former client, Joseph Guillory II (Guillory), and the insurance company that paid a personal injury settlement to Guillory, Zurich American Insurance Company (Zurich). Sewell alleged that Guillory and Zurich settled the personal injury claim without paying Sewell's contingent fee. In two separate orders, the trial court granted Guillory's no-evidence motion for summary judgment and Zurich's traditional motion for summary judgment. Sewell appeals the summary judgments in favor of Guillory and Zurich.[1]

         Facts Regarding the Underlying Personal Injury Lawsuit

         In June of 2012, Guillory was riding his motorcycle when he was involved in an accident with another vehicle allegedly driven by Darius Clifton and owned or operated by Diakon Logistics, Inc. (Diakon). Guillory initially hired Sewell to act as his attorney with respect to his claims against Clifton and Diakon. Guillory and Sewell executed a document styled "Contract for Legal Representation" dated June 28, 2012 (hereinafter the "Sewell Fee Agreement"). Pertinent provisions of the Sewell Fee Agreement include the following:

1.02 In consideration of the services rendered and to be rendered to Client by said Attorney, the Client does hereby grant, sell, assign and convey to the said Attorney as his compensation herein the following present undivided interest in said claim, 33 1/3% of all funds including PIP that are recovered before suit is filed, and 40% if a collection or settlement is made after suit is filed.
. . . .
1.05 . . . The Attorney may, in his absolute discretion, terminate this agreement at any time by giving me notice of such termination orally or in writing . . . .
. . . .
2.03 No settlement shall be made without Client's approval, nor shall Client obtain any settlement on the aforesaid claims without the Attorney's approval.
. . . .
2.05 However, if in the Attorney's opinion, a fair and reasonable settlement offer is made by an adverse party and [C]lient rejects the advice [of] Attorney to settle, then at Attorney's option, Client shall immediately be obligated to reimburse Attorney for costs and expenses incurred to that time and Attorney may withdraw from the case, retaining a lien for the Attorney fees as outlined in Paragraph Three[2], based ...

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