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Amber E.
Amber E., Attorney
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A person (P) signs an agreement to be a plaintiff in a contingency

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A person (P) signs an agreement to be a plaintiff in a contingency federal employment case involving overtime pay. Later, before the case is filed or served, P changes his mind and tells the lawyer to drop the case. Is P liable to the lawyer for anything?
If the lawyer threatens to sue him if he withdraws, even though the lawyer has done nothing yet, is the lawyer guilty of anything and will a complaint to the Bar result in sanctions?
Next question: If P was offered the entire amount of his overtime claim in writing, agreed to accept it, and then as a result of being threatened by his lawyer to be sued himself if he backed off, agrees to be a Plaintiff, can he then be countersued personally by the employer on the grounds that he refused to accept what he was owed and therefore had no business bringing a lawsuit?
1. A person (P) signs an agreement to be a plaintiff in a contingency federal employment case involving overtime pay. Later, before the case is filed or served, P changes his mind and tells the lawyer to drop the case. Is P liable to the lawyer for anything?

Ordinarily, lawyers are not allowed to collect any unearned fees. Whether fees have been earned, however, would depend on what the lawyer did and the particulars of the case prior to termination of the lawyer's services. For example, a lawyer may do a great deal working up a case prior to anything ever being filed. In fact, some cases are never filed, settled well in advance of or early during litigation, because of the lawyer's research and communications. Under those circumstances, the lawyer of course would likely have earned his or her fee for that work, or a good portion of it. The Rules concerning this can be found in detail on the Florida Bar Association's website, pay particular attention to Chapter 4. This includes the factors considered in determining the reasonableness of fees and enforceability of fee contracts. I have posted the web address to the direct link to the page below.

https://www.floridabar.org/divexe/rrtfb.nsf/FV?Openview&Start=1&Expand=4#4


2. If the lawyer threatens to sue him if he withdraws, even though the lawyer has done nothing yet, is the lawyer guilty of anything and will a complaint to the Bar result in sanctions?

Lawyers are subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct (see above site). Accordingly, virtually any unprofessional behavior, including an unfounded or baseless threat of suit, might be subject to sanctions. There is no way to determine whether it would, however, not knowing the particular circumstances of the case or the lawyer, for that matter. This is because who the lawyer is, in terms of his or her reputation, past conduct, years of service, etc all play a role in whether or not there will be sanctions and their severity. A 30 year lawyer with no blemish on his record, for example, is unlikely to be treated the same on a first offense as another lawyer who has been sanctioned twice before.

3. If P was offered the entire amount of his overtime claim in writing, agreed to accept it, and then as a result of being threatened by his lawyer to be sued himself if he backed off, agrees to be a Plaintiff, can he then be countersued personally by the employer on the grounds that he refused to accept what he was owed and therefore had no business bringing a lawsuit?

Individuals are not sued for refusing to accept a settlement offer. It is simply an offer, parties are free to accept or reject them. However, consequences for failing to accept a reasonable offer may include being cast with court costs, filing fees, attorneys fees, etc. of the party that made the offer if the person offered the deal rejects it and loses at trial.
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks for a very complete answer.


One last question for the following scenario:


The employee is entitled to a maximum for overtime of say $1000.00. He agrees to take it and agrees that such is indeed the entire sum owed.


No lawsuit has been filed yet, but the employee has previously talked to a lawyer who has agreed to take the case.


The lawyer talks him out of settling with promises of extra damages and threatens to sue the client or fees if he accepts any offer.


Afraid of his lawyer, the employee backs off and the lawyer goes to court.


Can the employer argue that there is no case because of the employee's refusal to accept payment In full of what he was owed?

You're welcome.

 

Can the employer argue that there is no case because of the employee's refusal to accept payment In full of what he was owed?

 

If the suit was frivolous, certainly. Sanctions may be imposed as well on the same grounds. However, success of such suit would likely depend in part on what "promises of extra damages" the lawyer made and whether the extra claims that serve as the basis for the extra damages were well founded.

 

Sometimes, a party may be rightfully entitled to more than simply what was owed if they had to endure some hardship resulting from not having received what was owed sooner. For example, in a hit and run, the person responsible for hitting a vehicle may have to pay not only repair costs, but also lost wages and bus fair for the period of time the vehicle was out of use. Likewise, an employee entitled to overtime pay who relied on timely receipt of that pay may have incurred some losses for having to wait, such as bills that went unpaid resulting in late fees.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thanks again for an excellent answer. But is it fair to say that barring such an argument there is no case?
Yes, I would say so. Courts generally frown on individuals bringing baseless suits and wasting court time and resources.
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