Christopher E. ROSE,
PENN & SEABORN, LLC; Cervera, Ralph, Reeves, Baker & Hastings, LLC; and Joel Gregg.
Denied September 13, 2019.
from Pike Circuit Court (CV-13-900051).
E. Rose, Troy, pro se.
Charles Hudson of Penn & Seaborn, LLC, Montgomery; and
Christina D. Crow of Jinks, Crow & Dickson, P.C., Union
Springs, for appellees.
E. Rose, appearing pro se, appeals from a judgment of the
Pike Circuit Court ("the trial court") ordering him
to pay an attorney fee to Penn & Seaborn, LLC
("P& S"); Cervera, Ralph, Reeves, Baker &
Hastings, LLC ("CRRB& H"); and Joel Gregg
(P& S, CRRB& H, and Gregg are hereinafter referred to
collectively as "the attorneys").
record indicates the following. Rose retained Shane Seaborn
of P& S and Grady Reeves and Clifton Hastings of
CRRB& H to represent him in connection with claims he was
pursuing against corporate defendants pertaining to gasoline
that had leaked from underground fuel-storage tanks into the
soil on his property. Seaborn associated Gregg as counsel
because Gregg has experience in underground-tank litigation.
Rose signed a contingent-fee employment contract ("the
fee agreement") in which he agreed to pay the attorneys
45% "solely from the proceeds" of the net amount
recovered, "whether by settlement, trial, or
March 2013, Seaborn, Reeves, and Hastings filed on behalf of
Rose a complaint against the corporate defendants in
connection with the leaked gasoline. In the complaint, Rose
asserted a number of tort claims and sought monetary damages
against the corporate defendants. On January 30, 2015, the
parties mediated the claims and agreed to settle the case for
$100,000, and Rose executed a settlement agreement ("the
first settlement agreement").
August 13, 2015, the corporate defendants filed a motion to
enforce the first settlement agreement, asserting that Rose
had refused to present the agreement and a release
discharging the corporate defendants from liability on the
claims ("the release") to the individual who held
the mortgage on the property at issue for his consent and
approval as required by the first settlement agreement. On
September 9, 2015, the trial court entered a summary judgment
enforcing the first settlement agreement.
September 14, 2015, Rose sent an e-mail to Seaborn informing
him that Rose was "terminating our agreement." Rose
wrote that he was meeting another attorney to "make
plans" to appeal the September 9, 2015, judgment, adding
that Seaborn was "ordered to refrain from any further
interaction with the [defendants] or the judge in this matter
on my behalf" and to "withdraw, remove, or prevent
subordinate attorneys retained by you to assist in this
case" from taking any further action. Rose explicitly
stated that he "fully and completely rescind[ed] any
agreement that gives you any authority to represent or bind
me in any agreements." Rose then said: "This email
is intended as an emergency stop work order to provide
reasonable review of the facts and to investigate charges of
ethics violation, case tampering and negligence." On
September 16, 2015, the attorneys filed a notice of an
attorney's lien in the trial court. They also filed a
motion to withdraw from their representation of Rose.
acting pro se, proceeded with an appeal of the September 9,
2015, judgment. On April 29, 2016, this court reversed that
judgment on the ground that a genuine issue of material fact
existed as to why the mortgage holder, Rose's
father-in-law, Glen Bracewell, had not signed the release and
no legal argument had been made by any party as to the legal
effect of Bracewell's failure to fulfill that requirement
specified in the first settlement agreement. Rose v.
Interstate Oil Co., 208 So.3d 26, 29 (Ala.Civ.App.
2016). The cause was remanded for further proceedings.
undisputed that, after the case was remanded, the parties,
including Bracewell, who had been added as a party to the
action on March 13, 2018, reached a new agreement to settle
the matter for $125,000 ("the second settlement
agreement"). On May 7, 2018, Rose, still appearing pro
se, filed in the trial court a "memorandum in opposition
to [the] fee" that the attorneys sought for their work
in this matter and requested a release of the attorney's
lien. Bracewell, who was represented by counsel, filed a
response to Rose's memorandum in opposition to the fee,
referencing "the $125,000 settlement proceeds" set
out in the second settlement agreement and arguing that he
was entitled to "the entire principal sum of $100,000
plus all accumulated and accrued interest." On May 23,
2018, the attorneys filed a response to Rose's
memorandum, attaching the fee agreement and correspondence
from Rose, including the e-mail in which Rose terminated
October 24, 2018, the trial court held an ore tenus hearing
on the attorney-fee issue. At ...