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Cohen v. Gold

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 15, 2018

SANFORD COHEN, Plaintiff(s),
v.
CATHERINE ISABELLA GOLD, Defendant(s).

          ORDER (DOCKET NO. 33)

          NANCY J. KOPPE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Richard Harris Law Firm's (“RHLF”) motion to adjudicate attorney's lien. Docket No. 33. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition. Docket No. 37. RHLF filed a reply. Docket No. 41. The Court finds the motion properly resolved without a hearing. See Local Rule 78-1. For the reasons discussed below, the Court ORDERS Plaintiff to pay RHLF's attorney's lien in the amount of $1, 662.50 within 30 days of the issuance of this order.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         The motion to adjudicate attorney's lien arises out of RHLF's lien on the instant case. See generally Docket Nos. 33, 33-4. On April 2, 2015, Mr. Cohen retained RHLF to represent him in a suit resulting from a car accident, in which he was the passenger of a vehicle driven by Defendant. Docket No. 33 at 2. RHLF pursued a bodily injury claim as well as an underinsured motorist claim (UIM) against Defendant's insurance, Mr. Cohen's insurance, and against the second driver and his insurance. Id. at 2. RHLF obtained $670.11 on May 28, 2015, and $4, 329.89 on July 7, 2015, from Progressive Insurance (Defendant's insurance) for the UIM medical coverage, totaling $5, 000. Docket No. 55-2 at 29, 57; see also Docket No. 55-5 at 2. On September 29, 2015, RHLF obtained $15, 000 from Progressive for the bodily injury claim. Docket No. 55-5 at 2. On April 14, 2016, Plaintiff terminated RHLF's representation. Docket No. 33-3. In the instant motion, RHLF requests the Court to adjudicate its attorney's lien for unpaid fees related to its work in furtherance of the UIM claim against Ocean Harbor Casualty Insurance Company (Plaintiff's insurance).[2]

         II. ENTITLEMENT TO FEES

         A. JURISDICTION

         Plaintiff submits that the Court does not have jurisdiction over the instant motion because the case was dismissed with prejudice prior to the filing of RHLF's motion. Docket No. 37 at 3; see also Docket No. 32 (order granting stipulation of dismissal). RHLF, however, submits that the Court does have jurisdiction over its motion because it is ancillary to a proceeding that was before the Court. Docket No. 41 at 2.

         Pursuant to Nevada Revised Statute (“N.R.S.”) 18.015, an attorney's lien may attach to “any verdict, judgment or decree.” This language implies that motions to recover an attorney's lien may be brought after a case is closed. Further, a lien on the settlement of a case cannot be adjudicated until the case is settled.

         Additionally, this Court has previously exercised its jurisdiction over motions to adjudicate an attorney's lien filed after a case has closed. See Mendoza v. Met Life Auto & Home Ins. Agency, Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 126418, at *3-9 (D. Nev. Sept. 6, 2012) (finding that “the Court has incidental jurisdiction to adjudicate the fee dispute...[unless the] right to fees is based purely upon a quantum meruit theory...”). RHLF's motion is based on work performed in furtherance of a claim in the instant case and, therefore, is “so closely related to the underlying litigation” that the Court can properly exercise ancillary or supplemental jurisdiction. FSLIC v. Ferrante, 465 F.3d 1037, 1039-041 (9th Cir. 2004) (finding that Courts have ancillary jurisdiction over an award of attorney fees following dismissal) (quoting Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U.S. 384, 396-396); see also Law Offices of Bruce Altschuld v. Wilson, 632 Fed.Appx. 321, 322-323 (9th Cir. 2015) (“ancillary jurisdiction [over attorneys' fees disputes] exists even after the underlying litigation has concluded”); cf FilmKraft Prods. India PVT Ltd. v. Skeptrum Entm't, Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133330, at *2-3 (D. Nev. Dec. 2, 2010) (although the motion to adjudicate attorney's lien had been filed prior to dismissal of the case, the Court found that it had supplemental jurisdiction over the motion because it was “so related to the action at hand”).

         Therefore, the Court finds that it has jurisdiction over the instant motion.

         B. ATTORNEY'S LIEN AND QUANTUM MERUIT

         Nevada Revised Statute 18.015 states:

1. An attorney at law shall have a lien:
(a) Upon any claim, demand or cause of action, including any claim for unliquidated damages, which has been placed in the attorney's hands by a client for suit or collection, or upon which a suit or other action has been instituted.
(b) In any civil action, upon any file or other property properly left in the possession of the attorney by a client.
2. A lien pursuant to subsection 1 is for the amount of any fee which has been agreed upon by the attorney and client. In the absence of an agreement, the lien is for a reasonable fee for the services which the attorney has rendered for the client.
3. An attorney perfects a lien described in subsection 1 by serving notice in writing, in person or by certified mail, return receipt requested, upon his or her client and, if applicable, upon the party against whom the client has a cause of action, claiming the lien and stating the amount of the lien.
4. A lien pursuant to:
(a) Paragraph (a) of subsection 1 attaches to any verdict, judgment or decree entered and to any money or property which is recovered on account of the suit or other action; and
(b) Paragraph (b) of subsection 1 attaches to any file or other property properly left in the possession of the attorney by his or her client, including, without limitation, copies of the attorney's file if the original documents received from the client have been returned to the client, and authorizes the attorney to retain any such file or property until such time as an adjudication is made pursuant to subsection 6, from the time of service of the notices required by this section.
5. A lien pursuant to paragraph (b) of subsection 1 must not be construed as inconsistent with the attorney's professional responsibilities to the client.
6. On motion filed by an attorney having a lien under this section, the attorney's client or any party who has been served with notice of the lien, the court shall, after 5 days' notice to all interested parties, adjudicate the rights of the attorney, client or other parties and enforce the lien.
7. Collection of attorney's fees by a lien under this section may be utilized with, after or independently of any ...

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