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Giles v. Boykin-Brown

Superior Court of Delaware

June 1, 2018

SARAH GILES, Plaintiff,
v.
CYNTHIA BOYKIN-BROWN, Defendant.

          Submitted: March 7, 2018

         Upon Intervener Ramunno & Ramunno, P.A.'s Intervener's Motion to Enforce Intervener's Charging Lien for a Portion of the Attorney Fees GRANTED in part and DENIED in part

          Eric M. Davis, Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before this Court is the Intervener's Motion to Enforce Intervener's Charging Lien for a Portion of the Attorney Fees (the "Motion") filed by Intervener Ramunno & Ramunno, P.A. ("Ramunno"). The Motion seeks one half of the fees earned by the attorneys in this civil action. The Court has reviewed all the parties' submissions, held hearings on December 19, 2017 and February 28, 2018 (collectively, the "Hearing"), heard argument and reviewed the record in this civil proceeding. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         Ramunno filed a complaint (the "Complaint") to initiate this civil action on March 9, 2015. On June 17, 2015, Katherine L. Hemming, Esq., filed a substitution of counsel (the "Substitution"). The Substitution withdrew L. Vincent Ramunno, Esq., as Plaintiff Sarah Giles' counsel and entered the appearance of Ms. Hemming and Lundy Law, LLP ("Lundy Law"), as counsel for Ms. Giles. Very little activity of record occurred after June 17, 2015. Eventually, Defendant Cynthia Boykin-Brown filed an answer and, on May 6, 2016, the Court entered a Trial Scheduling Order that set the trial date for August 7, 2017. On June 2, 2017, the parties settled their claims in this civil action.

         On July 12, 2016, Ramunno filed a motion to intervene. The Court granted that motion on August 12, 2017. The Court made no ruling on August 12, 2017 as to whether Ramunno had a valid claim for its fees against Ms. Giles and to the attorney fees portion of the proceed of the settlement.

         Ramunno then filed the Motion. On November 10, 2017, Ms. Giles filed her Plaintiff's Response to Intervener's Motion to Enforce Intervener's Charging Lien for a Portion of the Attorney Fees (the "Response"). Ramunno then filed its Intervener's Rebuttal in Support of Motion to Enforce Charging Lien on November 17, 2017 (the "Rebuttal"). The Court started the Hearing on December 19, 2017 and heard the testimony of L. Vincent Ramunno, Esq., and Lee Ramunno, Esq. The Court continued the Hearing until February 28, 2018. On February 28, 2018, the Court heard testimony from Ms. Giles, Lawrence Ramunno, Esq. and Ms. Hemming. At the conclusion of the Hearing, the Court allowed the parties to file any additional information regarding the issues raised in the Motion by March 7, 2018. On March 7, 2018, Ramunno filed a letter brief in further support of the Motion.

         B. Facts[1]

         In September 2014, Ms. Giles retained Ramunno to represent her in a personal injury claim against Ms. Boykin-Brown. The accident occurred on August 29, 2014 (the "2014 Accident"). Ramunno represented Ms. Giles from September 2014 until March 9, 2015. During that time, Ramunno handled all aspects of Ms. Giles' case.

         Ramunno filed the claim, conducted numerous meetings and conversations with Ms. Giles, worked on Ms. Giles' PIP claim, and attempted to settle the claims among other things. Ramunno also negotiated and obtained recovery from the property damage. Ms. Giles informed Ramunno that she needed money and wanted to settle the case as soon as possible. On February 24, 2015, Ramunno obtained medical records and made a demand for policy limits. Ramunno contends it was in constant contact with Ms. Giles.

         On March 4, 2015, Ms. Giles and her daughter ("Daughter") met with Ms. Hemming at Lundy Law to discuss an accident that occurred on February 5, 2015 ("2015 Accident"). During the meeting, Ms. Giles informed Lundy Law of the 2014 Accident. Ms. Giles informed Lundy Law that Ramunno represented Ms. Giles for the 2014 Accident. Ms. Giles testified that she was not happy with Ramunno's representation for the 2014 Accident because Ramunno did not keep her informed or return phone calls. During this conversation, Ms. Giles expressed a desire for Lundy Law to represent her for both accidents.

         On March 9, 2015, Ms. Giles sent an email to Ramunno discharging them ("Discharge Email") that day. From the record before the Court, Ms. Giles sent her email to L. Vincent Ramunno at the email address--rrsattorneys@aol.com.[2] The Discharge Email stated that Ms. Giles wished to hire Lundy Law as her attorney to keep her case with Daughter's case "for the purposes of clarity and convenience." The Discharge Email instructed Ramunno to send Ms. Giles' file to Lundy Law. The Discharge email also stated: "Thank you so much for all you have done. I appreciate your representation and will definitely recommend you to friends and family."

         Ramunno apparently did not review the Discharge Email on March 9, 2015. Ramunno did, however, file the Complaint on March 9, 2015.

         Ms. Giles sent another email on March 11, 2015 and reiterated that she wanted Lundy Law to represent her for both accidents.

         On March 13, 2015, Ms. Giles executed a fee agreement with Lundy Law for the 2014 Accident.

         On March 22, 2015, Ms. Giles sent another email to Ramunno stated that Ms. Giles discharged Ramunno and wanted the file transferred to Lundy Law. Lundy Law also forwarded the email to Ramunno. On March 25, 2015, Ramunno acknowledged the request for Ms. Giles' file.

         On April 13, 2015, Ramunno sent a Letter to Lundy Law stating "I am ready to turn over the Sarah Giles file to you but would appreciate receiving a check for the costs." Lundy Law sent the check on April 16, 2015. On April 22, 2015, Ms. Giles advised Lundy Law that Ramunno contacted Ms. Giles and acknowledged he was no longer representing her. But, Ramunno stated that she should come back to Ramunno if she did not want the case to drag on because Ramunno received an offer in the case. Lundy Law sent Ramunno a letter on April 28, 2015 requesting Ramunno stop contacting Ms. Giles and stop negotiating on Ms. Giles' behalf.

         Ramunno tried to settle the case. On April 28, 2015, Ramunno informed Lundy Law that Ms. Giles was willing to settle the case for $75, 000, but Ms. Boykin-Brown would only offer $65, 000. Ramunno also informed Lundy ...


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