Jones v Mackey Price Thompson & Ostler

Jones sued Mackey alleging failure to pay additional attorney fees owed for work on personal injury cases. The district court granted summary judgment to Mackey on a breach of contract claim, struck Jones jury trial demand, set the measure of damages on the quantum meruit claim as reasonable value of serves and entered judgment for Mackey after a bench trial ruling the fees already paid to Jones represented reasonable value. It also dismissed a fraudulent transfer claim against another law firm which also received fees from the personal injury cases. The court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded. The Court affirmed judgment on the contract claim as Jones’ own memorandum demonstrated there was no agreement as to compensation and the evidence form Mackey’s office manager did not demonstrate otherwise. The Court reversed on the quantum meruit claim holding that at the time of the ratification of Utah’s state constitution, a claim for contract implied in law were actions at law not equity as demonstrated by early Utah case law and the contemporary precedent in other state courts and when a claim is only for money instead of constructive trust or equitable lien, as here, the remedy is also legal and Jones was entitled to a jury trial on his claim. The Court also held that Offering guidance on remand, the Court held that as a general rule, Utah recognizes the benefit to the defendant as the measure of damages, but, in the professional services context, reasonable value will often be the benefit received. However, in the contingent fee context, like this case, the jury must consider such factors as the plaintiff’s recruitment of clients, financing of cases, the relative importance of plaintiff’s contribution and his skill and expertise. The Court finally held that dismissal of the quantum meruit claims against all defendants but Mackey was correct as it was the only defendant to receive a direct benefit from Jones and fraudulent transfer claim was properly dismissed because the fees paid to it were pursuant to an existing arm’s length contract and the fees received were not materially in excess of value given.