Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
SAM W. PETTIGREW, JR., Appellant
CEDAR SPRINGS ALEXANDRE'S BAR, L.P., Appellee
Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 1 Dallas County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. CC-14-02340-A
Justices Francis, Evans, and Boatright.
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
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
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
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 &
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 ...