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Trice v. Toyota Motor Corporation

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 27, 2018

Bridgette Trice, as trustee for the heirs and next of kin of Devyn Bolton, deceased, Plaintiffs,
v.
Toyota Motor Corporation, et al., Defendants.

          Quincy Ray Adams, Plaintiff, Toyota Motor Corporation,, Defendants. W.B. Markovits, Esq., Christopher D. Stock, Esq., and Louise M. Roselle, Esq., Markovits, Stock & DeMarco, LLC, Cincinnati, OH, on behalf of Plaintiffs Bridgette Trice and Quincy Ray Adams.

          Sharon L. Van Dyck, Esq., Van Dyck Law Firm, PLLC, Minneapolis, MN, and Michael B. Padden, Esq., Padden Law Firm, PLLC, Lake Elmo, MN, on behalf of Padden Law Firm, PLLC.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ANN D. MONTGOMERY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is Padden Law Firm, PLLC's (the “Padden Firm”) Motion for Release of Funds [Trice Docket No. 865; Adams Docket No. 587][1] and Motion for Additional Findings per Rule 52(b) and for Altered Judgment per Rule 59(e) [Trice Docket No. 876; Quincy Adams Docket No. 582].[2] For the reasons set forth below, both motions are denied.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Motion for Additional Findings and Altered Judgment

         On April 27, 2018, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order (“Order”) [Trice Docket No. 860; Adams Docket No. 575] authorizing distribution of the contingency fee earned by law firms representing Plaintiffs in these companion cases. The Order allocates 15% of the contingency fee to the Padden Firm and 30% to the Law Office of Kenneth R. White, P.C. (the “White Firm”).[3] Judgment was entered pursuant to the Order on April 30, 2018. See Judgment [Trice Docket No. 862; Adams Docket No. 577].

         The Padden Firm moves for additional findings of fact and an amended judgment, arguing the fee allocation is erroneous. The Padden Firm contends that it is entitled to 30% of the contingency fee according to an April 2014 Fee Agreement among Plaintiffs and their attorneys. See Padden Decl. [Trice Docket No. 737] Ex. 12 (April 2014 Fee Agreement). The Padden Firm argues that the Court misapplied controlling Minnesota law when it declined to enforce the April 2014 Fee Agreement and instead divided fees in proportion to the amount of work each firm performed.

         “A Rule 52 motion is intended to correct findings of fact which are central to the ultimate decision.” Dale & Selby Superette & Deli v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 838 F.Supp. 1346, 1347 (D. Minn. 1993) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Rule 59(e) motions serve a limited function of correcting manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence. Such motions cannot be used to introduce new evidence, tender new legal theories, or raise arguments which could have been offered or raised prior to entry of judgment.” Innovative Home Health Care, Inc. v. P.T.-O.T. Assocs. of the Black Hills, 141 F.3d 1284, 1286 (8th Cir. 1998) (internal citations omitted). “[A] motion made pursuant to Rules 52 and 59 is not intended to routinely give litigants a second bite at the apple, but to afford an opportunity for relief in extraordinary circumstances.” Dale & Selby Superette, 838 F.Supp. at 1348.

         The Padden Law Firm argues that the standard governing the division of fees among different law firms-Minnesota Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5(e)-provides two alternatives for dividing fees, and that the Court erred by addressing only one of the alternatives. Rule 1.5(e) states:

A division of a fee between lawyers who are not in the same firm may be made only if:
(1) the division is in proportion to the services performed by each lawyer or each lawyer assumes joint responsibility for the representation;
(2) the client agrees to the arrangement, including the share each lawyer will receive, and the agreement is ...

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