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September 1, 2013
Bar revisits lien resolution rules

The Bar Rules Committee is tweaking a proposed contingency fee rule amendment that would allow hiring, in some instances, an additional law firm to handle medical lien resolutions in personal injury cases.

Committee Chair John Alpizar told the Board of Governors in July that questions came up after the board approved the amendments at its May meeting, including when it was permissible to bring in an outside attorney to handle lien resolutions.

“It was recognized that there were some extraordinary things that came into play with Medicaid and Medicare [lien regulations], and sometimes the [original contingency fee] lawyer is in over his head, and there are professionals who do that sort of thing,” Alpizar said.

The change clarifies that the original lawyer, in line with a recent Supreme Court opinion, does not get any more money for handling lien resolutions under the original contingency fee contract, and also cannot split fees or receive any extra payment if lien resolutions are turned over to another attorney.

The board also approved some technical changes in the proposed rule comments.

The board had earlier proposed an amendment allowing the hiring of attorneys to handle medical and other liens under a reverse contingency fee with the consent of the client.

The court rejected that amendment and said it was the responsibility of the contingency lawyer as part of the original contingency contract to resolve those liens. The board’s new proposal allows for turning the liens over to another attorney in extraordinary cases, under the argument the client would be better off by having the liens resolved by an attorney concentrating in that area.

The revised rule will return to the board for its final approval in October.

[Revised: 12-15-2014]