December 19, 2019 Articles

Silly Lawyer Tricks XVIII

Failing to follow procedural requirements for a brief can torpedo an entire appeal.

By Tom Donlon

This is the latest column in our continuing series on real mistakes and misdeeds by real lawyers in cases on appeal.

Callahan & Blaine v. Volger, 2019 WL 3311722 (Cal. Ct. App. 4th Dist. July 24, 2019) (unpublished)

This case offers an abject lesson on the potential consequences of forgoing a reply brief. Silence may mean concession to the appellate court.

The case involved a contract dispute for failure to pay attorney fees and costs owed. A law firm originally represented an insured in a suit against its insurer for water damage. After litigating the case for over a year, the firm withdrew due to a conflict of interest. The insured acknowledged a debt of $114,000 for fees and costs, and the firm filed a notice of lien. Under successor counsel, the case settled for $1.5 million. To obtain a release of the firm’s lien, which the insurance company required, the insured and successor counsel entered into an agreement to pay the original law firm $82,000 from the insurance settlement. When successor counsel later refused to pay, the firm sued for breach of contract. The trial court awarded summary judgment to the firm.

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