On July 3, 2019, the Waco Court of Appeals released its opinion in a case arising out of the Hill County Court in which the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s judgment in favor of Ford + Bergner. In the case, F+B Managing Partner Don Ford serves as the administrator of a complicated estate. In that case, one of the heirs of the estate retained the services of an attorney who represented the heir for less than 2 weeks. After the heir discharged his attorney, the attorney filed a request to the Court seeking to have her attorneys’ fees paid out of the estate’s assets. She alleged that she had provided services to the estate, rather than to the heir of the estate. Additionally, this same attorney alleged that she had represented a creditor of the estate in seeking payment of the debt from the Estate.
In the trial Court, Ford objected to the requests for fees on the basis that the attorney never provided services to the estate and is therefore not entitled to payment of the fees from the Estate. She should have sought the fees directly from the client whom she represented. Additionally, Ford objected on the basis that the attorney never represented the alleged creditor as he was represented in the case by another attorney who had already secured payment of the creditor’s claim from the estate. Finally, Ford asked the trial court to sanction the lawyer for her frivolous court filings.
At trial, the trial Court agreed with Ford and denied all of the attorney’s requests for fees. Additionally, the trial court sanctioned the attorney and charged her to repay the estate all of the attorneys’ fees that Ford incurred in addressing her fee requests. The court further sanctioned her an additional $2,500 as a penalty to deter her from filing frivolous pleadings in the future.
On Appeal, the attorney alleged that she had not filed frivolous pleadings and that the sanctions were levied in an inappropriate amount. The Court of Appeals disagreed with her and upheld all of the relief that the trial court granted. As a result, the attorney is indebted to the estate for nearly $10,000 as sanctions for her conduct in having submitted frivolous pleadings to the Court.
Ford + Bergner LLP represents clients in prosecuting and defending appeals of estate, trust, and guardianship litigation cases. The appellate victory described above represents the third such victory that Ford + Bergner has achieved in the last 3 months in 3 different courts of appeals in the state of Texas. If you are needing to appeal a ruling in a contested estate, trust, or guardianship proceeding, please do not hesitate to contact us.