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Boyle v. Clyde Snow & Sessions PC

Court of Appeals of Utah

April 19, 2018

Thomas D. Boyle, Appellant,
v.
Clyde Snow & Sessions PC, Appellee.

          Third District Court, West Jordan Department The Honorable Barry G. Lawrence No. 090400630

          Thomas D. Boyle, Appellant Pro Se

          Jeffery S. Williams, Attorney for Appellee

          Judge Kate A. Toomey authored this Opinion, in which Judges Gregory K. Orme and Michele M. Christiansen concurred.

          OPINION

          TOOMEY, Judge

         ¶1 This case is before us on remand from the Utah Supreme Court. See generally Boyle v. Clyde Snow & Sessions PC (Boyle II), 2017 UT 57, rev'g Boyle v. Clyde Snow & Sessions PC (Boyle I), 2016 UT App 114, 378 P.3d 98. Our supreme court reversed this court's determination in Boyle I that the district court did not have jurisdiction to award attorney fees to Clyde Snow & Sessions PC (Clyde Snow), concluding that Thomas D. Boyle had "waived any objection to procedural deficiencies in Clyde Snow's intervention." Id. ¶¶ 3-4. On remand, we are instructed to address Boyle's remaining contentions. Id. ¶ 22.

         ¶2 Boyle contends the district court erred in awarding attorney fees to Clyde Snow because: (1) Clyde Snow failed to perfect its attorney's lien under Utah Code section 38-2-7; (2) the court failed to "recognize and properly consider Mr. Boyle's valid assignment of contract rights from Prince Yeates & Geldzaher, PC" (Prince Yeates); and (3) the court denied Boyle his due process rights because he did not have a "full and fair opportunity to be heard." Boyle has failed to develop a "reasoned analysis supported by citations to legal authority and the record" and has therefore failed to meet his burden of persuasion on appeal. Utah R. App. P. 24(a)(8); see Bank of America v. Adamson, 2017 UT 2, ¶¶ 12-13, 391 P.3d 196. We therefore affirm the district court's award of attorney fees to Clyde Snow and remand for the sole purpose of dismissing the ancillary fee dispute with prejudice.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         ¶3 This case began in June 2007 when a plaintiff (Plaintiff) retained Clyde Snow on a contingency fee basis to represent her in her son's wrongful death action. Clyde Snow's contingency fee agreement (the CFA) with Plaintiff secured a forty-percent interest, through an attorney's lien, "of any Recovery achieved either by negotiated compromise or settlement prior to or after the filing of a Complaint." The CFA also provided, "In the event of a Recovery after [Clyde Snow] has been discharged, [Clyde Snow] shall be compensated for the reasonable value of [Clyde Snow's] services."

         ¶4 Clyde Snow assigned Boyle, who was then an attorney with the firm, to litigate the case. In 2010, after about three years of litigation, Boyle joined Prince Yeates and "[Plaintiff] elected to have [her] claim follow Boyle." Boyle v. Clyde Snow & Sessions PC (Boyle II), 2017 UT 57, ¶ 5. In July 2010, Clyde Snow sent a letter to Plaintiff and Boyle demanding a minimum payment for its services in the event of a recovery. A few days later, Clyde Snow filed a notice of attorney's lien, asserting its interest in Plaintiff's recovery for the value of the services it had rendered.

         ¶5 In May 2013, the parties to the wrongful death action settled the claim and moved to dismiss the case with prejudice the following month. In late June, before the court made a decision related to the motion to dismiss, Clyde Snow filed a restated notice of attorney's lien and an objection to the dismissal of the wrongful death action, arguing that the issue of the attorney's lien had not been resolved. The district court dismissed the wrongful death claims with prejudice but ordered the case to "remain open . . . for the sole and limited purpose of deciding [Clyde Snow's] attorney's lien."

         ¶6 The court ordered Clyde Snow and Prince Yeates to file position statements and mediate the attorney's lien issue. In its position statement, Prince Yeates explained that it need not be involved, because the dispute regarding attorney fees was between Clyde Snow, Boyle, and another attorney involved in the case.[2] Clyde Snow argued that the underlying case originated with Clyde Snow through the CFA and that it was entitled to receive reasonable value for the services it had provided. The parties attempted to mediate but were unsuccessful.

         ¶7 In January 2014, after notifying the court that mediation was unsuccessful, Prince Yeates filed a motion to interplead funds Clyde Snow could recover if the court determined Clyde Snow had established entitlement to them. Prince Yeates disclaimed any interest it might have had in the interpleaded funds and assigned "any such interest to Mr. Boyle" and the other attorney. The district court granted Prince Yeates's motion and Clyde Snow filed a complaint, asserting its entitlement to the interpleaded settlement funds. Boyle answered the complaint, arguing that Clyde Snow should not receive any of the funds, because it had mismanaged the case, and he asserted several counterclaims. Boyle also moved to dismiss Clyde Snow's complaint, alleging that Clyde Snow failed to properly intervene, and he alternatively filed a motion for summary judgment. The court denied Boyle's motions-concluding the claims in his motion for summary judgment were previously addressed in earlier pleadings and "beyond the scope of this interpleader action"-and conducted an evidentiary hearing on the attorney's lien issue in July 2014.

         ¶8 At the evidentiary hearing, Clyde Snow called five witnesses, including an expert witness who testified to the method used by Clyde Snow to determine the amount of fees to which it was entitled and to opine on the reasonableness of the amount of its attorney fees demand. Boyle recalled one of Clyde Snow's witnesses for additional testimony and was himself cross-examined by Clyde Snow's attorney during his defense. At the close of the hearing, the court ruled in favor of Clyde Snow and ...


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