Hulk Hogan Sues Law Firm for Overcharging
Retired professional wrestling champ Hulk Hogan is up for another fight, only this one doesn't involve grappling with another large man clothed only in a few strategically placed swathes of spandex. Instead, Hogan is taking on American Lawyer "Litigation Boutique of the Year" finalist Zuckerman Spaeder, alleging that the firm overcharged Hogan by more than $1 million in legal fees. According to Hogan's malpractice complaint, Zuckerman Spaeder never disclosed that Hulk Hogan's insurance company would have provided a free attorney to defend Hulk Hogan in a civil case that arose out of his son's car crash. Moreover, Hogan contends that the lawyer whom Hulk Hogan's insurer had lined up for him was far more qualified than the two Zuckerman Spaeder attorneys who charged rates of up to $550 an hour. The Zuckerman attorneys denied all charges in a statement they released to The Am Law Daily.
This seems like a tough, tough case to prove. First, Hulk Hogan needs to establish that Zuckerman did indeed have an ethical obligation to disclose the availability of lower cost options (for the record, I believe that lawyers should always do so). Second and even more difficult, Hulk Hogan would need to show that the cheaper lawyers would have attained a better result. Perhaps Zuckerman padded its bills -- the $1.5 million that the firm charged to defend Hulk Hogan in a civil case, even one involving serious injury, seems quite high. Hulk Hogan's lawyers say the bill was high in part because lawyer rates were charged for work performed by paralegals. So perhaps there's a viable claim for unreasonable fees. The claims for malpractice for failure to disclose are going to be far harder.
Do you think that law firms are required to disclose lower-cost alternatives to their own services? And how far does the obligation extend? Informing a client of available services under an insurance policy is one thing. Recommending the cheap lawyer down the street is another.
Posted by Carolyn Elefant on September 14, 2009 at 05:19 PM | Permalink
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