Committee on Legal Ethics v. Gallaher

In Committee on Legal Ethics v. Gallaher, 180 W.Va. 332, 335, 376 S.E.2d 346, 349 (1988), a lawyer disciplinary proceeding was brought against an attorney who allegedly obtained an excessive fee from a client. The attorney's client was an elderly woman who sustained injuries while a passenger in a car that was involved in an accident. The woman sustained medical bills in excess of $ 2,300. The insurance company offered the woman only $ 726.65. The offer was rejected, and the woman retained counsel solely for the purpose of recovering medical payments. The attorney was able to settle the case for $ 4,500. The attorney charged a fee of fifty percent of the settlement and, therefore, retained $ 2,250. Lawyer disciplinary proceedings were brought against the attorney as a result of the alleged excessiveness of the fee, and this Court concluded that a fee of fifty percent was indeed excessive and grossly disproportionate to the services rendered. Consequently, the Court reprimanded the attorney and ordered the attorney to return $ 750 to the client. Even in those circumstances, this Court approved, in effect, a contingent fee of $ 1,500, constituting thirty-three and one-third percent of the total recovery.