Accident Victim Can Appeal Her Lawyer’s “Good Cause” To Widthdraw

Victoria McGill hired Friedman & Solmor to represent her in her auto accident case. The law firm represented Victoria on a contingent fee arrangement until about one month before trial was scheduled. The firm withdrew as a result of a dispute with Victoria over whether to accept a settlement offer.

Victoria got new counsel, who went to trial and got a verdict in excess of $180,000. Friedman & Solmar notified Victoria about a lien it had earlier served. Victoria in turn petitioned to adjudicate the lien. Her petition was denied, and F&S was granted a $20,500 quantum meruit judgment. Victoria appealed that judgment.

Victoria’s Notice of Appeal stated she was appealing from the judgment granting fees; it did not identify the order stating F&S had good cause to withdraw. Nonetheless, Victoria asserted that F&S did not have good cause to withdraw. F&S argued that the appellate court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the question of good cause because the order was not listed in Victoria’s notice of appeal.

The First District Illinois Court of Appeals sided with Victoria on this question. The court recognized the general rule that it “acquires no jurisdiction to review other judgments or parts of judgments not specified or inferred from the notice of appeal.” But in this case, “the good-cause finding was clearly a step in the procedural progression leading to the granting of the fee petition. Indeed, the good-cause finding was a necessary prerequisite to awarding F & S fees and costs in quantum meruit. Accordingly, this court has jurisdiction to consider the merits of plaintiff’s argument.”

F&S lost that battle, but won the war. The judgment for fees was affirmed. Read the whole case, McGill v. Garza, No. 1-06-3027 (12/13/07), by clicking here.