Victory on Appeal For Lawyer-Client

  • March 28, 2013

The Firm won an appeal arising from a lawyer-client dispute in the Houston Fourteenth Court of Appeals on February 28, 2013. The Court ruled (3-0) that the trial court erred in admitting certain expert testimony. At trial, ten former clients of the attorney took issue with the way in which certain expenses were calculated in their personal injury settlements.  They alleged that these expense charges resulted in a breach of their fee agreements and a breach of fiduciary duty, which they claimed entitled them to both actual damages and fee forfeiture. The trial court allowed these ten plaintiffs to put on wide-ranging expert testimony about the law, with the expert witness giving the jury a detailed discussion of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, as well as opining that the attorney necessarily violated his fiduciary duty by violating these rules. Although the jury found in the attorney’s favor on the breach of contract question for nine of the ten plaintiffs, the jury failed to find compliance with fiduciary duty, and judgment was rendered for the clients.  The Houston Fourteenth Court of Appeals reversed because of the erroneous admission of expert testimony: “Testimony of this nature runs afoul of the reliability requirement, and of the prohibition against testimony concerning pure questions of law.” 

Beck Redden partner David M. Gunn gave the oral argument. He coauthored the brief with his Beck Redden colleague Erin H. Huber, along with Houston appellate attorney David W. Holman and trial attorneys Ronald G. Franklin and Thomas M. Farrell of McGuire Woods LLP. The case is styled Fleming v. Kinney, No. 14-11-00611-CV.  The author of the Court’s opinion was Justice William J. Boyce.