I generally think of quantum meruit claims as merely disposable, add-on claims used in a belt-and-suspenders approach to a contract action. But after reading the opinion in Shamoun & Norman, LLC v. Albert G. Hill, Jr., I am not going to underestimate the power of a quantum meruit claim. A $7.25 million bonus for negotiating a global settlement over 6 weeks — not too shabby!
From 2007 through 2010, Hill was embroiled in a myriad of lawsuits that became known as the “spider web of litigation.” (Slip Op. at 2). In 2009, Hill hired Shamoun and his firm, S&N, to represent him in two of the lawsuits. (Id.) In March 2010, Hill and Shamoun discussed Shamoun acting as global settlement negotiations counsel in order to settle the spider web of litigation and provide a unifying voice for Hill and his related parties. (Slip Op. at 3). Shamoun ultimately agreed to act as global settlement counsel, presumably in large part at an “incentive bonus” offered to Shamoun in which he would receive 50% of any settlement above the difference between $55 million (the rejected offer amount) and $73 million (Hill’s highest authorized settlement amount). (Id.).
Hill assured Shamoun multiple times that the incentive bonus was a done deal. (Slip Op. at 4-7). Shamoun negotiated a global settlement over the next 6 weeks and, by May 4, 2010, had reached an agreement on all material terms of a global settlement. (Slip Op. at 7). At that point, Hill denied agreeing to the incentive bonus and fired Shamoun. (Slip Op. at 7-8). The settlement was finalized and read into the record on May 5 and was signed by all parties on May 13. (Slip Op. at 7). and between March 27, 2010 and May 4, 2010, brokered a global settlement of the spider web. (Slip Op. at 4-7).
Shamoun demanded payment of the bonus, and Hill refused. (Slip Op. at 8). Shamoun filed suit. Only his quantum meruit claim made it to the jury. (Slip Op. at 9). The jury determined that S&N had provided compensable global settlement services for Hill valued at $7.25 million, but did not award Shamoun fees for prosecuting the claim. (Slip Op. at 9). The trial court granted Hill’s motion to set aside the quantum meruit findings, and Shamoun appealed. (Id.)
The Dallas Court of Appeals reversed and rendered judgment on the quantum meruit verdict. The Court’s lengthy opinion includes multiple holdings addressing many issues, including the enforceability of oral contingency agreements, the evidence necessary to establish compensable services, several waiver arguments, and whether an expert’s testimony is unreliable simply because he disagrees with the defendant’s interpretation of a disputed facts. The opinion is well worth the time it takes to read.
You can read the opinion here.