Fracasse, Not Cazares, Test Applied.
When a contingency attorney is discharged, the general measure of recovery is quantum meruit--the reasonable value of attorney’s services rendered to the time of discharge. (Fracasse v. Brent, 6 Cal.3d 784, 790-792 (1972).) This rule is reinforced, yet again, in Mann v. Hernandez, Case No. B240546 (2d Dist., Div. 2 Nov. 5, 2013) (unpublished).
Discharged contingency attorneys in Mann argued they were entitled to pro rata recovery based on number of hours billed under Cazares v. Saenz, 208 Cal.App.3d 279 (1989), rather than based on the Fracasse test.
Nope, said the appellate court in much more eloquent reasoning.
Cazares is distinguishable because it did not involve successively retained attorneys, but attorneys who expressly agreed to share a contingent fee. Mann involved a successively retained attorney situation. Especially given that the contingent fee was sufficient to satisfy the fees of all attorneys involved, the traditional Fracasse rule applied--only when the contingent fee is insufficient does the lower court distribute the contingent fee among all discharged and existing attorneys in proportion to the time spent on the case by each attorney. (Spires v. American Bus Lines, 158 Cal.App.3d 211, 216 (1984).)
Fracasse ruled in this one.