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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: Manuel Garcia Gatica was killed in a construction accident. On behalf of his estate and his two children, Gatica’s widow sued Holt Texas, the company in charge of the equipment whose failure allegedly caused Gatica’s death. Gatica’s parents also sought damages. The lawyers for the parties eventually reached a settlement. At that time, the trial court appointed Oscar Hale to be the children’s guardian ad litem. Two-and-a-half months later, Hale filed a report with the trial court. Hale then sought ad litem fees. At a hearing on the fees, Hale testified at one point that he had worked at least 80 hours on the case, and at another point that he had worked between 68 and 70 hours. A written summary of his work indicated he spent 67 hours on the case. He added that he had been forced to work another 15 hours to recover his ad litem fees, and that he probably gave up 10 to 12 hours of work on other cases to serve as the ad litem. He acknowledged at one point that his usual fee was $200 per hour, but that $300 per house was standard for ad litem work. Hale further testified that he twice traveled to Mexico to translate the settlement into Spanish for the adult plaintiffs and to explain to them how the annuity would work. He helped those same plaintiffs get visas to enter the United States to attend settlement hearings, and he interviewed the children and the adults. Hale testified that he had practiced civil law only three of the seven years he had been licensed, and that this was the first time he served as a guardian ad litem. Hale admitted his services stretched over only a two-and-a-half-month period, and that he had not been part of the settlement negotiation process. Meanwhile, Holt’s attorney testified that he had spent only 51.8 hours on the case over an eight-month period. Holt’s attorney also testified that he thought $200 per hour was a reasonable ad litem fee. The trial court found Hale worked 90 hours. It also found a reasonable hourly fee for ad litems in the area was $300 per hour. The trial court awarded Hale $50,000 in ad litem fees. HOLDING: Affirmed, contingent on a remittitur. The court reviews the testimony Hale and Holt’s attorney gave, keeping in mind the eight factors of Texas Disciplinary Rule of Professional Conduct 1.04 that a trial court should consider when determining how much a guardian ad litem should be compensated. The factors include the complexity of the case, the ad litem’s experience, the customary fee and the likelihood that appointment as an ad litem will preclude the lawyer from accepting other work. The court points out that the trial court’s award of $50,000 for 90 hours of works equates to $555 per hour. The court disagrees with Hale that the award is justified based on the time he spent on the case, his responsibilities, his role in facilitating the settlement, the complexity of the case, the amount in controversy and his extended exposure to liability. He spent upwards of 90 hours over two-and-a-half months, while defense counsel spent only 51 hours over eight months. He was new at being an ad litem and spent time talking to other attorneys who had been ad litems. He became involved in the case after the settlement had been negotiated, and no changes were made to the settlement because of his work. The court acknowledges, though, that Hale traveled to Mexico and helped convince the adult plaintiffs to accept the settlement. Hale’s bilingual skills assisted in this, but there was otherwise no evidence that the case was particularly complex or that Hale had unusual ad litem responsibilities. The court also notes that Hale could not specify what work he missed out on by devoting time to being ad litem. Nor was there any reason to hinge the amount of the fee award to the settlement amount. As even Hale admitted, his duty would have been the same whether the settlement had been for $50,000 or $5 million. Consequently, the court rules that the evidence is factually insufficient to support awarding Hale $50,000 in ad litem fees. The court also rules that Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 173, which allows for recovery of ad litem fees, does not authorize fees for the time the ad litem spends recovery those fees. “We conclude that Rule 173 only authorizes guardian ad litem fees for the representation of a minor, and not for the representation of the ad litem’s own interest.” The court says it will affirm the judgment and award if the trial court orders a remittitur of $27,500, leaving Hale with $22,500 in fees. That equates to 75 hours at a rate of $300 per hour. OPINION: Speedlin, J.; Lopez, C.J., Marion and Speedlin, JJ. DISSENT: Lopez, C.J. The dissent would give the trial court leeway in setting fees, allowing the lower court to add value for the services of an ad litem whose actions saved a settlement that was in the best interests of the minor children, and for the critical role the ad litem’s bilingualism played in the acceptance of the settlement. The dissent would also allow ad litems to recover fees for the time spent dispute the underlying ad litem fees.

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