The Texas law firm of Scheef & Stone, along with two attorneys, have been sued for $400,000 by a former client. The suit, Doores v. Crutcher, was filed in July of 2014 and alleges that the firm worked on a case they knew they could not win – earning close to $400,000 in fees for themselves to the detriment of Doores.
Steven Doores was a former plastic surgeon when he was approached by an investment company to buy property near Celina, Texas. The investment firm stated that the land was near a planned Walt Disney theme park and would skyrocket in value. The theme park never happened and the $1,000,000 investment of Doores was left in various real estate properties that had no value to him. He engaged attorney Jay Crutcher of the firm Scheef & Stone to sue the investment firm for his money back. However, Doores explained that he only wanted to spend $200,000 and only wanted to pursue the matter if it was viable that his money would be returned.
After billing the nearly $400,000 in fees, the lawyers told Doores that there were no assets in the investment company that were unprotected and they would have little chances of collecting anything. Doores sued for breach of fiduciary duty and negligence.
This case highlights an important aspect of client satisfaction – communication. Whether Crutcher knew of the investment firm’s lack of assets or not is secondary to the fact that the client felt he was misled.
Firms should have a clear engagement letter at the start of each project, outlining the fees and milestones. Firms should also communicate regularly with the firm to keep expectations in check. A firm should never be surprised by outcomes, as surprises can lead to lawsuits.
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