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Boyle v. Clyde Snow & Sessions, P.C.

Supreme Court of Utah

August 29, 2017

Thomas D. Boyle, Respondent,
v.
Clyde Snow & Sessions, P.C., Petitioner.

         On Certiorari to the Utah Court of Appeals

         Third District, Salt Lake The Honorable James D. Gardner No. 090400630

          Jeffrey S. Williams, Salt Lake City, for petitioner

          Thomas D. Boyle, Fruit Heights, Scott R. Hoyt, Salt Lake City, for respondent.

          Associate Chief Justice Lee authored the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Durrant, Justice Durham, Justice Himonas, and Justice Pearce joined.

          OPINION

          Lee Associate Chief Justice.

         ¶1 This case was filed and litigated for years as a wrongful death action. It has now devolved to a dispute over attorney fees. The fee dispute is between Thomas Boyle, who represented the plaintiff in the wrongful death action, and the law firms with which he was affiliated (Clyde Snow & Sessions, P.C. and later Prince Yeates & Geldzahler, P.C.).

         ¶2 The wrongful death action settled after six years of litigation. And in the wake of the settlement-but prior to dismissal or final judgment-one of the law firms (Clyde Snow) asserted a lien against a portion of the settlement funds based on its claim for attorney fees. The procedural and substantive propriety of the Clyde Snow claim was litigated over the course of about a year in the district court. Ultimately, the district court upheld the viability of that claim and entered an order awarding a portion of the settlement funds as fees to Clyde Snow.

         ¶3 The court of appeals reversed that order on appeal. It concluded that Clyde Snow had failed to intervene in the manner required by law, that the parties had not waived any objection to the defects in intervention, and thus that the district court lacked jurisdiction to award attorney fees to Clyde Snow.

         ¶4 We reverse. Like the district court, we conclude that Boyle waived any objection to procedural deficiencies in Clyde Snow's intervention. Boyle effectively acquiesced in the litigation over fees and even advanced his own competing claim to fees. And we hold that in these circumstances any objection to the procedural deficiencies in Clyde Snow's intervention was waived by Mr. Boyle.

         I

         ¶5 The underlying wrongful death action began in 2007 when the plaintiff retained Clyde Snow. Thomas Boyle was the lead attorney in the wrongful death action between 2007 and 2010. In June 2010, Boyle left Clyde Snow and joined Prince Yeates. And the plaintiff elected to have the claim follow Boyle to Prince Yeates. On July 7, 2010, Clyde Snow filed a notice of lien relating to its representation of plaintiff until June 2010.

         ¶6 Three years later, on June 28, 2013 the parties to the underlying dispute filed a motion to dismiss the case with prejudice in light of a settlement. That same day, Clyde Snow filed an objection to dismissal and restated its notice of lien.

         ¶7 On July 15, 2013 the district court held a telephonic hearing on the motion to dismiss and Clyde Snow's objection. At the hearing the defendants in the underlying action opposed deciding the attorney lien issue in the same action. In their view the attorney lien should be the subject of a separate lawsuit. Boyle, however, did not oppose deciding the attorney lien issue in the underlying action. And the district court ...


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