Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Pettigrew v. Cedar Springs Alexandre's Bar, L.P.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

April 2, 2018

SAM W. PETTIGREW, JR., Appellant
v.
CEDAR SPRINGS ALEXANDRE'S BAR, L.P., Appellee

          On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 1 Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. CC-14-02340-A

          Before Justices Francis, Evans, and Boatright.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JASON BOATRIGHT JUSTICE

         Multiple parties joined as plaintiffs in this dram shop lawsuit alleging that Cedar Springs Alexandre's Bar, L.P. was responsible for the actions of one of its customers. Following mediation, the parties agreed to settle their claims. In its final judgment, the trial court described how claims by the various plaintiffs had been resolved, dismissed, or severed, and stated "this Final Judgment addresses the claims of minor, [J. G-H], which is the only remaining claim."

         Attorney Sam W. Pettigrew, Jr. intervened in the case below, seeking to recover attorney's fees for representing plaintiff Gina Bell individually, on behalf of the estate of her daughter, Kellilynne Seaman, and as next friend of her grandson, J. G-H. On appeal, Pettigrew challenges the final judgment, specifically the court's allocation of settlement proceeds for J. G-H, asserting that because he had a valid contingency fee agreement for 40% of the proceeds, the trial court erred by awarding $7, 500 in full satisfaction of his attorney's fees, costs, and expenses. He contends the trial court abused its discretion by allowing Bell to represent her daughter's estate pro se after terminating Pettigrew. He also complains that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to recuse the trial judge in this case. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand to the trial court for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

         BACKGROUND

         On May 23, 2012, Matthew Moore ran a red light and collided with a vehicle being driven by Jeremy Price. Kellilynne Seaman and her minor son, J. G-H., were passengers in Price's car. Price was killed, Seaman suffered a brain injury and later died, and J. G-H was seriously injured. Gina Bell, Seaman's mother and J. G-H's grandmother, hired Pettigrew and entered into an agreement titled Attorney Retainer Agreement-Contingency Fee, which she signed "for Kellilynne E. Seamon as attorney in fact and individually." In consideration for Pettigrew's legal services, Bell agreed to assign and grant Pettigrew 33 1/3% of her claims if the parties settled prior to a lawsuit being filed, and 40% if recovery was made after suit was filed.

         On May 14, 2014, plaintiffs, Patty Carter, individually and on behalf of the estate of Jeremy Price, John Seaman, individually and on behalf of the estate of Kellilynne Seaman, and Gina Bell, individually and on behalf of the estate of Kellilynne Seaman and as next friend of J. G-H, a minor child, filed suit against Cedar Springs Alexandre's Bar, L.P., alleging that Moore was driving while intoxicated at the time of the collision. They alleged that on the day of the incident, Moore had been served alcohol at defendant Alexandre's Bar even though he was obviously intoxicated. Alexandre's Bar L.P. filed a third-party claim against Dallas Woody's Corporation d/b/a Woody's Sports & Video Bar.

         On January 12, 2015, Bell terminated Pettigrew's services. Pettigrew withdrew as her attorney in the litigation and filed a plea in intervention for his attorney's fees, asserting entitlement to 40% of the settlement recovery for all claims pertaining to Kellilynne Seaman and J. G-H. In the alternative, Pettigrew sought to recover quantum meruit for services provided to Bell individually, on behalf of the estate of Kellilynne Seaman, and as next friend of J. G-H.

         On January 20, 2015, the parties participated in court-ordered mediation and agreed to a total settlement of $700, 000 for all plaintiffs. Shortly thereafter, the trial court appointed Melodee Armstrong, as guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the minor child.

         In May 2015, the trial court conducted a hearing on the proposed settlement for J. G-H. Bell testified that she agreed to settle her claims, individually and on behalf of J. G-H, for $375, 000, with J. G-H receiving $225, 000, and Bell receiving $150, 000. Bell testified that J. G-H's settlement proceeds would be used to pay off his Medicaid lien, establish a trust account for his care, invest in a structured settlement annuity, and pay attorney's fees. Armstrong submitted a guardian ad litem report recommending approval of the settlement; she also summarized her efforts to compromise the amount of Pettigrew's attorney's fees for services provided to the minor. The trial judge told Pettigrew that for purposes of approving the minor's settlement, she needed to see documentation supporting his proposed fee.

         On June 24, 2015, Alexandre's Bar filed a motion to sever, stating that all claims in the case had settled except for Pettigrew's claim for attorney's fees against Bell's settlement recovery. The motion averred that all parties requested that the trial court sever Pettigrew's claim so the remainder of the case could become final. Pettigrew filed a response, stating that his claim for attorney's fees from the minor's recovery had not been settled. He further stated that he had not been afforded an opportunity to be heard and demanded a trial on his claim for fees. At a hearing on the motion, the trial judge agreed that 40% of the settlement proceeds allocated to Bell individually would be paid into the registry of the court pending resolution of the dispute between Bell and Pettigrew as to his attorney's fees. The judge stated that with respect to the minor child, Pettigrew's attorney's fees had already been determined to be $7, 500. The trial court granted the motion, severing Pettigrew's claims against Bell into separate cause number CC-16-00030-A.

         Pettigrew then filed a motion to recuse the trial judge. The trial judge referred the matter to the presiding judge of the administrative judicial district, who assigned a different judge to hear the motion to recuse. After a hearing, the visiting judge denied the motion to recuse.

         In December 2015, the trial court rendered final judgment in the original case, disposing of all remaining claims and parties. Among other things, the judgment allocated J. G-H's settlement proceeds, including an award to Pettigrew of $7, 500 in full satisfaction of his attorney's fees, costs, and expenses associated with his representation of J. G-H. Pettigrew filed a motion for new trial complaining that he was denied the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.