Court re-emphasizes, lawyers may not share fees with "ambulance chasing" non-lawyers
In the recent Fisher v. Carron case, the plaintiff sued attorney Patick Carron, alleging that he had promised to share his contingent fee recovery with her, in return for bringing a car accident case to his office. The plaintiff alleged that Carron told her such arrangements were legal and then attempted to dupe her out of the full promised fee share. The Court rejected Fisher's claim and in doing so, pointed out that Fisher could not claim an equitable estoppel, since she was never legally entitled to share a fee--regardless of who she "delivered" the victim's case to.The Court of Appeals reaffirmed that under the Rules of Professional Ethics, a lawyer cannot share fees with a non-lawyer who does not owe a fiduciary duty to the client. Referral fees can be shared with other lawyers (because they have taken on a "duty" to the client and thus are subject to the rules of the Court and can be sued or disciplined for negligence or improper conduct in the management of a claim). To avoid situations such as occurred forty years ago, (where, for example, fake priests met with families and steered them to cooperative lawyers) the law does not allow non-lawyers to become engaged in this capacity with contingent fee lawyers or their clients.