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Wood v. Minh-Tam "Tammy" Tran

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

August 6, 2019

LAWRENCE R. WOOD, Appellants
v.
MINH-TAM "TAMMY" TRAN AND TAMMY TRAN AND ASSOCIATES, Appellees

          On Appeal from the 152nd District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2017-33605

          Panel consists of Justices Keyes, Goodman, and Kelly.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GORDON GOODMAN JUSTICE.

         Minh-Tam "Tammy" Tran and Tammy Tran and Associates (collectively, Tran) represented Lawrence Wood pursuant to the terms of an engagement agreement the parties executed in October 2002. Wood initiated the underlying suit in 2017, claiming that Tran breached the agreement allegedly by retaining excessive fees.

         Tran moved for summary judgment, contending that Wood's breach-of-contract claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court granted Tran's motion, and Wood appeals, contending that the trial court did not identify the proper accrual date. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         In September 2002, Tran agreed to represent Wood, who was doing business as Wood Resources, in a suit that stemmed from a November 2001 fire at Wood's recycling and disposal factory. At first, Tran's representation involved defending Wood against Harris County's lawsuit to recover costs associated with extinguishing the fire, including charges for work performed by Boots & Coots, a private firefighting company under contract with the County. As the case developed, Wood and Tran discussed the possibility of bringing a third-party claim against Boots & Coots on the theory that it had overcharged for the work by prolonging the fire. Wood and Tran also discussed having Tran represent Wood in collecting charges owed by customers with delinquent accounts.

         A month later, Tran and Wood executed a new engagement contract that expanded the scope of Tran's representation to incorporate these additional matters. Wood agreed to pay a "flat amount of $50, 000" to cover all costs and expenses in the third-party claim against Boots & Coots and the collection claims to be brought on Wood's behalf. The parties agreed that on recovery or settlement of the claims,

said contingent attorneys' fee will be figured on the total net recovery or settlement prior to deduction for Firm's costs, expenses, and fees of any kind. Upon recovery, the $50, 000 advance by Client shall be reimbursed to Client with all costs and expenses to be included within Firm's contingent fee.
30% of any settlement or recovery made before suit is filed thereon;
40% of any settlement or recovery made after suit is filed;
45% of any settlement or recovery made after a notice of appeal has been given or an appeal bond has been filed.

         Wood recalled that his uncle negotiated the terms of the fee agreement with Tran. Wood and Tran signed the agreement on October 9, 2002.

         Tran litigated the third-party claim against Boots & Coots on Wood's behalf. In 2003, the parties settled it for $50, 000. Wood met with Tran at her office to finalize the settlement. He signed the Boots & Coots settlement agreement and ...


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