3d DCA Watch — Ganguzza Redux

Hi kids, it’s Spring cleaning at the bunker and its fortified steel doors have been thrown wide open today, so let’s burp, Charlie, burp our way into this week’s opinions:

Brickell Place Condos v. Ganguzza:

This is the second opinion recently involving deceased attorney Joseph H. Ganguzza.

The last one wasn’t so hot, and neither is this one:

The record reflects that the Associations employed the law firm for twenty years to represent them in (1) litigation and general matters; and (2) collection and foreclosure matters.

When Joseph H. Ganguzza, Esq., the law firm’s sole shareholder, died, the Associations terminated their relationship with the law firm, retained new counsel, and requested that the law firm transfer all of the Associations’ files to its new counsel. Instead, the law firm filed a retaining lien and refused to provide the Associations with a copy of their files unless the Associations paid the law firm for its services on the pending collection and foreclosure cases even though the delinquent unit owners had not brought their accounts current.

Wow.That’s stone cold, and also apparently wrong:

An attorney or law firm may not assert a retaining lien for fees allegedly owed in a contingent fee case unless and until the contingency has occurred. Because the contingency has not occurred, the law firm could not assert a retaining lien for fees it contends it is owed on collection matters that were still pending when it was discharged. If the law firm believes it is owed money for services it rendered in the collection of delinquent unit owner fees, it may file a charging lien and is entitled to the reasonable value of its services on the basis of quantum meruit, limited by the contract flat fee the parties agreed to. See Rosenberg, 409 So. 2d at 1020-21 (adopting “the modified quantum meruit rule which limits recovery to the maximum amount of the contract fee in all premature discharge cases involving both fixed and contingency employment contracts”).

Accordingly, we reverse the order denying the Associations’ emergency motion for injunctive relief seeking discharge of the law firm’s retaining lien. Our ruling is without prejudice to the law firm’s right to file a charging lien to protect its right to recover the reasonable value of its services.

Of course, that’ll be the subject of another opinion.

Good day Sir!