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Mancini & Associates v. Schwetz

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Sixth Division

September 4, 2019

MANCINI & ASSOCIATES, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
JASON SCHWETZ, Defendant and Appellant.

          Superior Court County No. 56-2016-00485907-CU-NP-VTA of Ventura Kent M. Kellegrew, Judge

          Greg May for Defendant and Appellant.

          Mancini & Associates and Tara J. Licata for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          GILBERT, P. J.

         Of course, on occasion, a client may not fully appreciate the excellent result achieved by her or his attorney. Such an occasion provides the background from which this case arises.

         An attorney successfully prosecutes an action resulting in a substantial jury verdict in favor of his client. The retainer agreement between the attorney and his client provides that the attorney receive a percentage of the recovery and costs should his client prevail.

         Thereafter, the client, without the attorney's knowledge or consent, releases the defendant from the pending judgment, including attorney fees and costs.

         Does this release preclude the attorney from pursuing his costs and fees from the defendant? Of course not.

         Jason Schwetz appeals a judgment entered in favor of the law firm Mancini & Associates (Mancini). We affirm.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This appeal concerns a written settlement and release from a 2008 judgment awarded Gina Rodriguez, plaintiff in the underlying lawsuit, Rodriguez v. Schwetz (Super. Ct. Ventura County, 2008, No. SC046381). But for $40 collected from defendant Schwetz in a debtor's exam, the judgment proved to be uncollectable. Seven years following trial and her favorable judgment, Rodriguez regretted the lawsuit and sought “to resolve all the issues” with Schwetz. The settlement and release broadly releases the attorney fees and costs due Mancini pursuant to the firm's retainer agreement with Rodriguez.

         Mancini brought this action against Schwetz seeking attorney fees and costs, plus interest, awarded in the underlying litigation and incorporated into the 2008 judgment. Following a court trial, Mancini obtained $409, 351 damages on tort theories of interference with contract and economic advantage. Schwetz appeals this award.

         Underlying Lawsuit and Aftermath

         On March 30, 2005, Rodriguez and Mancini agreed in writing that Mancini would represent Rodriguez in an employment lawsuit against her former employer NADT, LLC (NADT), and its principal, Schwetz. The retainer agreement provided that Mancini's attorney fees would be 50 percent of any recovery obtained plus all attorney fees awarded by the trial court. In addition, the agreement provided that court ...


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