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Dobbs v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 13, 2018

Dustan Dobbs, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., et al., Defendants,
v.
George E. McLaughlin, on behalf of John Gehlhausen, P.C., on behalf of Anthony G. Argeros, P.C., Appellee.

          Argued January 9, 2018

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 15 cv 8032 - Sharon Johnson Coleman, Judge.

          Before Flaum, Kanne, and Rovner, Circuit Judges.

          Kanne, Circuit Judge.

         George McLaughlin represented Dustan Dobbs in a products liability suit against DePuy Orthopaedics. After DePuy offered to settle the suit, but a few months before Dobbs accepted that offer, Dobbs terminated the representation contract and removed McLaughlin as counsel. Now, McLaughlin seeks attorneys' fees in quantum meruit for the services he and his cocounsel, Anthony Argeros, rendered in Dobbs's case. He brought this action on his own behalf, on behalf of his employer at the time he took Dobbs's case, and on behalf of Anthony Argeros's estate.

         In a previous appeal, we vacated a fee award to McLaughlin because the district court did not adequately address all the requisite quantum meruit factors. On remand, the district court evaluated each factor and awarded McLaughlin $87, 500. For the reasons that follow, we affirm that award.

         I. Background

         In August 2012, Dustan Dobbs hired George McLaughlin (who was at that time employed at John Gelhausen, P.C .) and Anthony Argeros to represent him in a products liability suit against DePuy. The attorneys took Dobbs's case on a 35% contingency fee agreement. Two days after retention, McLaughlin and Argeros filed Dobbs's complaint in the DePuy ASR Hip Implant Multidistrict Litigation in the Northern District of Ohio.

         A year later, DePuy proposed a settlement, offering parties represented by counsel on a certain date $250, 000 and parties not represented on that date $177, 500. Dobbs told his attorneys that he wanted to receive information about the settlement but didn't want to actually settle. McLaughlin advised Dobbs to accept the settlement due to the costs of going to trial. Frustrated because he felt McLaughlin was trying to force him to settle his case, Dobbs filed a motion to remove McLaughlin as his counsel on October 17, 2014.[1] McLaughlin moved to withdraw on December 30, 2014, which was granted on January 8, 2015, leaving Dobbs unrepresented.

         Thereafter, in February 2015, Dobbs ultimately decided to accept the settlement offer. Though he was unrepresented at the time that he accepted the settlement, he was considered a represented party under the settlement terms, entitling him to a base award of $250, 000.

         Because Dobbs terminated his contract with McLaughlin before accepting the settlement, McLaughlin could not re- cover under the contingency fee agreement. So McLaughlin asserted a lien on Dobbs's settlement award and sought attorneys' fees under quantum meruit. The fee dispute was transferred from the multidistrict litigation's venue to the Northern District of Illinois. There, the district court awarded McLaughlin 35% of Dobbs's base settlement award, or $87, 500. Dobbs appealed.

         In December 2016, we held that the district court abused its discretion in granting McLaughlin $87, 500 because the court did not adequately address the necessary quantum meruit factors. We made clear, though, that our decision did not address the substantive reasonableness of the award: the court could award the same sum on remand so long as it adequately addressed the requisite factors.

         On remand, the district court considered evidence from the parties, addressed each quantum meruit factor, and again awarded McLaughlin $87, 500. Dobbs appeals this second decision, and we review it again for an abuse of discretion. See Dobbs v. DePuy Orthopedics, Inc., 842 F.3d 1045, 1048, 1050 (7th Cir. 2016) (noting that, because the district court that awarded the attorneys' fees was not the same court that presided over the relevant litigation, the abuse of discretion standard re- quired the district court that awarded the attorneys' fees to engage in an adequate discussion of the relevant factors).

         II. ...


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