Shapero v. Mercede

In Shapero v. Mercede, 66 Conn. App. 343, 784 A.2d 435 (2001), rev'd, 262 Conn. 1, 808 A.2d 666 (2002), the Court reversed the judgment of the trial court rendered in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $ 22,500. The trial court rendered judgment in accordance with the report of an attorney trial referee (referee) to whom the matter had been referred. The report recommended judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of $ 22,500 in his action seeking, inter alia, quantum meruit damages for legal services provided to the defendant. In reversing the decision, the Court held that we improperly concluded that because the plaintiff had not produced evidence showing either his rate of compensation or the prevailing rates in the community, there was insufficient evidence on which to base an award. Shapero v. Mercede, 262 Conn. 1, 6, 808 A.2d 666 (2002). Specifically, the Court held that the referee's general knowledge concerning the reasonable value of legal services, and her unchallenged factual findings with regard to the plaintiff's experience and reputation and the novelty and complexity of the legal issues addressed in the course of the plaintiff's work for the defendant provided sufficient support for her challenged finding as to an appropriate hourly rate. See id., at 7-10. In Shapero v. Mercede, 262 Conn. 1, 9, 808 A.2d 666 (2002) the Court cited this statement in Pearl v. Nelson with approval. The controversy in Shapero did not concern the need for expert testimony in fee collection cases that are tried to a jury. Instead, Shapero held that attorney trial referees, like trial courts, have the professional expertise to assess the sufficiency of the evidentiary support for a fee collection action without the assistance of expert testimony. Id.