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Law Offices of Dodge, P.A v. Russum

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware, New Castle

November 6, 2013

LAW OFFICES OF GARY R. DODGE, P.A., a Delaware Corporation Plaintiff,
v.
SHAWN RUSSUM, Defendant.

Submitted: October 14, 2013

Upon Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment- DENIED

Gary R. Dodge, Esquire Attorney for the Plaintiff

Shawn Russum Pro Se Defendant

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Sheldon K. Rennie, Judge

INTRODUCTION

This action involves a fee dispute that arises out of legal representation of the Defendant by the Plaintiff in several courts. The Law Offices of Gary R. Dodge (hereinafter "the Firm") represented the Defendant, Shawn Russum (hereinafter "Russum") in matters before the Court of Chancery, the Superior Court, and the Court of Common Pleas.[1] The Chancery action involved a dispute over personal property and real estate between Mr. Russum and his father. The Superior Court/Court of Common Pleas matters involved the recovery of the cash value of a certificate of deposit (hereinafter "CD") in Mr. Russum's name that his mother cashed without Mr. Russum's knowledge or permission. Mr. Russum signed fee agreements for each representation, but the Firm alleges that he stopped paying the billed invoices. Mr. Russum alleges that the Firm did not adequately represent him, nor did the members of the Firm listen to his requests for each of the two matters. Therefore, Mr. Russum claims that the Firm owes him money. After both parties submitted their pleadings, the Firm filed a motion for partial summary judgment with respect to the Superior Court/Court of Common Pleas matters. This is the Court's decision. The Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is DENIED.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

I. The Chancery Matter

Mr. Russum first sought legal assistance from the Firm on January 19, 2010.[2] He needed assistance with estate matters concerning his grandfather's estate and real estate matters involving his father. On October 19, 2012, Mr. Russum discharged Gary Dodge and the Firm from further representation, and as a result Mr. Dodge filed an application to withdraw with the Court of Chancery.[3] Vice Chancellor Glasscock heard Mr. Dodge's application on January 22, 2013. That same day, Vice Chancellor Glasscock also addressed the remaining issue in Mr. Russum's Chancery matter.[4] Throughout his representation, the Firm mailed regular invoices for work done on the Chancery matter to Mr. Russum. The Firm began mailing invoices on February 4, 2010, and mailed the final invoice on March 9, 2012. The invoices for the Chancery matter totaled $4, 816.[5] Mr. Russum made three payments on the account totaling $430. Thus, the Firm claims that Mr. Russum owes a balance of $4, 336.

II. The Superior Court and Court of Common Pleas Matters

In addition to the Chancery matter, Mr. Russum needed help with the recovery of money from a CD that was in his name, which his mother had cashed without his knowledge.[6] On November 30, 2010, Mr. Russum, acting pro se, filed a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas against his mother for the repayment of the cash value of the CD titled in his name.[7] After an oral motion to dismiss was made in that action, the Court of Common Pleas dismissed Mr. Russum's Complaint on the basis that the action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Thereafter, the Firm filed a notice of appeal with the Superior Court on April 25, 2011. That same day, Mr. Russum signed a fee agreement with the Firm.[8] After briefing and argument on appeal, the Superior Court reversed and remanded the Court of Common Pleas decision on September 28, 2011.

Following the reversal and remand from the Superior Court, the Court of Common Pleas held trial on March 5, 2012, at which Mr. Dodge appeared on behalf of Mr. Russum. The Court of Common Pleas ultimately found in favor of Mr. Russum.[9] Mr. Russum's mother then filed a motion for reargument, which the Court of Common Pleas denied. Both parties to the matter then entered negotiations regarding the amount of pre- and post-judgment interest to be charged. Mr. Russum ultimately received $22, 000 on September 27, 2012.[10]

The Firm asserts that it sent Mr. Russum invoices at regular intervals for its involvement with this matter. The first invoice is dated April 21, 2011, and the last invoice is dated November 19, 2012. The invoices for the Superior Court/Court of Common Pleas matters totaled $9, 628.[11] The Firm contends that Mr. Russum ...


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