SIROTE & PERMUTT, P.C.
C. Randall CALDWELL, Jr.
from Mobile Circuit Court (CV-18-902403).
Ortega and T. Julian Motes of Sirote & Permutt, P.C., Mobile,
Robert Stankoski, Jr., and Joshua P. Myrick of Stankoski
Myrick, LLC, Fairhope, for appellee.
& Permutt, P.C. ("Sirote"), appeals from a summary
judgment entered in favor of C. Randall Caldwell, Jr. We
reverse and remand.
and Procedural History
worked for George Woerner, who owned several businesses
headquartered in Foley. In 2009, Caldwell was promoted to
president of Woerner Landscape, Inc., one of those
businesses. Caldwell stated that, at that time, he was a
licensed attorney in good standing in Alabama even though he
was not engaged in
private practice. During his employment with Woerner, the BP
oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. Caldwell contacted
an attorney with Cunningham Bounds, LLC, a law firm in
Mobile, regarding the possibility of referring Woerner's
businesses to Cunningham Bounds for Cunningham Bounds to
handle their claims arising out of the BP oil spill. In April
2011, the Woerner companies retained Cunningham Bounds to
represent them in the litigation related to the BP oil spill.
Cunningham Bounds executed representation agreements with
each of the Woerner companies; those agreements provided that
Cunningham Bounds would be paid a contingency fee for the
work. Each of the representation agreements included the
"TO: CUNNINGHAM BOUNDS, LLC "1. I/We hereby employ
Cunningham Bounds, LLC (`Attorneys') to represent me/us
on my our claim for damages arising out of the Deepwater
Horizon oil spill disaster caused by BP PLC and/or related BP
entities, Transocean, LTD and/or other Transocean entities,
and in Attorneys' discretion, any other defendants.
".... "Referral fees, if applicable: I/We
understand that my/our claims and case were referred to you
by Randall Caldwell (Referring Attorney) who may
receive up to 1/3 of the attorneys fees set out in this
Agreement. I/We understand that this referral fee will not
result in total attorneys fees greater than that provided in
left his employment with Woerner in spring 2012 and returned
to the private practice of law.
2014, the Woerner companies retained Sirote to assist
Cunningham Bounds in the BP oil-spill litigation.
Additionally, each of the Woerner companies sent Caldwell a
letter dated May 6, 2014, in which they stated that Caldwell
had previously assisted with a BP oil-spill claim asserted on
behalf of that Woerner company; that the claim had been
principally handled by Cunningham Bounds; and that at the
time Caldwell provided assistance he was working as in-house
counsel for one or more of the Woerner companies. Each letter
went on to assert that the claim would have to be reworked
"based on newly announced guidelines from appellate
courts hearing BP's objections to some of the previously
filed claims"; that the owners and management of the
Woerner companies felt that it would be in their best
interest to retain a firm with experienced tax and business
attorneys to assist in the claims; that the Woerner companies
wished to continue their representation by Cunningham Bounds;
that they were terminating the attorney-client relationship
between Caldwell and the Woerner companies; and that they
were retaining Sirote to assist Cunningham Bounds in
reworking the claims asserted by the Woerner companies. After
receiving this letter, Caldwell contacted one of the
attorneys at Cunningham Bounds and told him that it was his
position that he was entitled to the referral fees discussed
in the representation agreements because, he said, he had
referred the Woerner companies' claims to Cunningham
the Woerner companies reached a settlement regarding their BP
oil-spill claims. On September 20, 2018, Cunningham Bounds
filed a complaint for interpleader and seeking declaratory
against Caldwell and Sirote. In its complaint, Cunningham