LAURIE ANN MCRAY, INFINITY CAPITAL, LLC AND MCRAY MONEY MANAGEMENT, LLC, Appellants
DOW GOLUB REMELS & BEVERLY, LLP, Appellee
Appeal from the 333rd District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2015-47112
consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Higley and
a law firm's suit against its former clients for unpaid
attorney's fees. The trial court granted summary judgment
to the law firm for the fees, plus the additional fees that
the law firm incurred in collecting its contract damages. The
clients appeal, contending that the law firm did not
conclusively establish liability for the amount of fees owed,
nor for the fees incurred in collecting the debt. The clients
further contend that the trial court erred in striking one of
their late-designated expert witnesses. Because the
summary-judgment evidence does not conclusively establish the
amounts owed, we reverse and remand.
Golub Remels & Beverly, LLP, represented Laurie Ann
McRay; Infinity Capital, LLC; and McRay Money Management, LLC
(collectively, McRay) in two lawsuits. In the first, Dow
Golub defended Infinity Capital against claims arising out of
mold in a rental property and pursued a counterclaim against
Infinity Capital's tenants, who allegedly had damaged the
property. In the second, Dow Golub defended Laurie Ann McRay,
McRay Money Management, and Infinity Capital against claims
brought by investors in McRay's entities for breach of
fiduciary duty, professional malpractice, and violations of
the Texas Securities Act.
engagement agreements for the two lawsuits, McRay agreed to
pay Dow Golub fees for its professional services. McRay had
the right to terminate the representation at any time by
written notice, at which time she would owe the charges
incurred to that point, plus post-termination fees associated
with transfer of the files. The engagement agreements say:
"It is difficult to predict exactly how much time will
be required to complete our legal work. The Firm will devote,
however, the time which we deem necessary to carry out the
engagement agreements also entitle Dow Golub to seek the fees
that it might incur in pursuing payment of its unpaid
invoices: "[Dow Golub] is entitled to reasonable
attorney's fees and costs if collection activities are
necessary for the failure of [McRay] to pay any indebtedness
to the Firm."
February 2015, McRay terminated Dow Golub's
representation. At the time, McRay did not pay amounts
charged in certain of Dow Golub's invoices. Dow Golub
later issued two invoices for additional legal work, in July
2015 and in August 2015, which McRay also did not pay. Dow
Golub sued McRay and her entities to recover its unpaid fees,
alleging causes of action for breach of contract and quantum
meruit. McRay answered, denying the amount owed, and she
asserted a counterclaim for professional negligence.
the time for designating expert witnesses had passed, Dow
Golub moved for a traditional summary judgment on its breach
of contract claim for unpaid fees. It attached an affidavit
from Sanford Dow, to which he attached the unpaid invoices,
noting that they reflected the legal fees and expenses
incurred by McRay.
responded to the motion by stating that "the
attorneys' fees for which Dow Golub seeks to be paid were
excessive as are the fees for which they seek to be
compensated to recover those fees." She noted that some
entries in the invoices were heavily redacted, so that
"it is not possible to tell what legal services were
also moved in the trial court to allow a late designation of
expert witnesses. With the motion, McRay proffered affidavits
from two experts, John P. Venzke, on the reasonableness of
the fees, and Eugene B. Wilshire, on the standard of care.
Dow Golub moved to strike the late-designated experts. The
trial court struck Wilshire, but it allowed Venzke.
is a practicing lawyer who has "handled and submitted
invoices for legal services for thousands of files, "
and he has "audited invoices for legal services."
He stated that he is "familiar with reasonable billing
rates and time entries in Harris County, Texas." Venzke
averred that he had reviewed the entire file, including
"the billing records submitted by [Dow Golub]." He
opined that "the fees sought are not reasonable and
necessary for the services performed."
nonsuited her professional-negligence counterclaim, but she
filed an amended answer adding affirmative defenses of
"credit and/or setoff" and ...