Webb v. Harleysville Insurance Company
In Webb v. Harleysville Insurance Company, 1995 WL 716757 (Del. Super., 1995), there was an underlying personal injury case with an anticipated recovery. Counsel, who initially represented the client, filed a lien to any recovery by their former client in the personal injury action to collect their claimed attorney's fees. Once the recovery was determined, the attorneys sought the contingency fee agreed upon in their initial contract with the client.
The Court declined to award attorney's fees on the contingency fee amount, holding that contingent fee awards were not appropriate in a case where an attorney was discharged. Rather, the Court held the recovery for attorney's fees was limited to quantum meriut. (Quantum meruit literally means "as much as he deserves" and stands for the theory of recovery for a fair value of services performed)
The Court further held that "the lawyer's recovery is limited to quantum meruit in an amount not to exceed the contingency fee."
In Webb, the court set forth ten factors to be considered when determining an award of reasonable attorney's fees under a quantum meriut theory. They are:
(1) The time and labor required, the novelty and difficult of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
(2) The likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the substance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;
(3) The fees customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
(4) The amount involved and the results obtained;
(5) The time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
(6) The nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;
(7) The experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers to perform the services;
(8) Whether the fee is fixed or contingent;
(9) The employer's ability to pay; and
(10) Whether claimant's counsel has received or expects to receive compensation from any other source.