Movant medical-legal consulting foundation sought review of a judgment from the Superior Court of San Diego County (California), which approved the compromise of plaintiff minor’s medical malpractice claim and the payments to plaintiff’s attorneys, but refused to approve payments to movant, pursuant to a contingency fee contract held to be violative of state laws regulating the practice of law, and contrary to public policy.
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The trial court had refused to approve payments under the contingency fee contract to movant medical-legal consulting foundation, determining that such an agreement was automatically invalid and unenforceable. On review, the appellate court affirmed the approval of the compromise of plaintiff minor’s medical malpractice claim, but declined to uphold the trial court’s ruling that the contract was per se invalid as a violation of public policy. The appellate court, however, found that California’s statutory limitations in the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 on attorneys fees in medical malpractice cases required that plaintiffs’ agreement with both movant and the attorneys to be scrutinized closely to ensure that the consulting contract did not subvert the legislative scheme. The appellate court accordingly reversed the order that approved payments to the attorneys and disapproved the contract and remanded the case for further proceedings, in which the trial court was directed to determine the reasonableness of the fees assessed in the case.
Although the appellate court affirmed the approval of the compromise of plaintiff minor’s medical malpractice claim, it reversed the approval of payments to plaintiff’s attorneys and the disapproval of the contingency fee contract with movant medical-legal consulting foundation. The case was remanded for a determination of the fees’ reasonableness under the statutory limitations on fees under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975.