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That is the question addressed in Martinez v. Mintz Law Firm, LLC, (371 P. 3d 671), Colorado Supreme Court, May 31, 2016. In this case, the original attorneys hired to represent April Martinez were the Mintz Law Firm, LLC and Eric Krajewski (collectively, “Mintz”). They were hired on a contingency fee basis for a personal injury claim after April Martinez fell and injured her knee at her apartment complex. (April Martinez later died from a pulmonary embolism that formed in her leg and traveled to her lung.)

Her mother, Ramona Martinez retained Mintz for a wrongful death action against the apartment complex. Martinez and Mintz entered into a contingency agreement, promising Mintz 33 and a third percent of gross fees collected if the case settled outside of court. Language in agreement said fees would be paid to Mintz unless there was a termination of the agreement because of wrongful conduct by Mintz. “…which would cause the Attorney to forfeit any fee…”

Mintz was terminated for cause. Martinez then retained Stevens Law Firm (“Stevens”) to represent her. Stevens notified Mintz of the discharge in writing. Mintz filed a lien on any settlement in the case. Stevens settled the case on behalf of Martinez and filed a motion to void the lien. Mintz fought the motion. The district court determined Mintz was not entitled to fees because Mintz had been discharged for cause, and under the express language of the agreement between Mintz and the plaintiff, Martinez, Mintz had therefore forfeited any fee. The court of appeals reversed. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed the appeals court ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings.

The Metier Law Firm is committed to assisting people with personal injury claims throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, and we frequently serve as co-counsel to law firms nationwide. Tom Metier recently secured the largest personal injury verdict in Colorado.

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