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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The appeal derived from a dispute over whether and how a client agreed to pay a firm for legal services. The client, appellants, Charles M. Haden Jr., individually (Haden), and Charles McIntyre Haden Jr. & Co. (the company) challenged a series of summary judgments and an eventual judgment rendered in favor of appellee, David J. Sacks PC (the law firm). Haden hired Sacks as to serve as appellate counsel in a commercial landlord-tenant dispute pending before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The parties began their working relationship through a written engagement letter sent from the law firm and dated Aug. 4, 1997. Sacks’ signature appears at the close of the letter. Below Sacks’ signature is the statement, “Your signature below indicates acceptance of the terms of this fee agreement.” Haden paid a $5,000 retainer and later made a $5,000 payment, but he did not pay the remaining balance of $30,314.38. Sacks eventually sent a demand letter stating the account was 19 months past due. Sacks sued Haden for the balance. The trial court rendered an interlocutory summary judgment in favor of the law firm on its breach-of-contract claims for $30,314.38, plus interest. The trial court also ruled that the law firm was entitled to attorney’s fees expended in pursuing the contract claim, but reserved ruling on the amount of reasonable attorney’s fees. The trial court rendered a take-nothing summary judgment in favor of the law firm on the company’s counterclaims for unconscionable action, fraud and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). On June 5, 2000, the trial court rendered a take-nothing summary judgment on Haden and the company’s counterclaims for breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract. In three issues, Haden and the company contended that the law firm did not establish its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law for breach of contract to pay $30,314.38 for legal services performed; for $120,887.50 in attorney’s fees awarded the law firm in connection with pursuing the breach of contract claim; and on the company’s counterclaims for violations of the DPTA, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and fraud. Haden and the company’s counterclaims were premised on the following alleged conduct: Sacks induced Haden to hire the law firm by telling Haden that he must have an experienced, board-certified appellate lawyer like Sacks and represented that he would personally write the appellate brief instead of an associate, but Sacks turned the file over to “inexperienced” attorneys, who performed the vast majority of the legal services. Haden and the company contended that Sacks’ misrepresentation that he would perform the work himself caused damages, because it took the inexperienced associates more time to perform the work than it would have taken Sacks, had he performed the work himself, and the bill was therefore higher than it should have been. HOLDING:Affirmed. The law firm defended the trial court’s ruling by claiming that it established its right to prevail as a matter of law for unpaid legal fees and expenses in the amount of $30,314.38, and that the company offered no properly admissible summary judgment evidence to dispute that right. The court agreed. The court concluded that Haden and the company failed to produce more than a scintilla of evidence of damages for any of their counterclaims. For the DTPA claim, the court found no evidence of damages, a necessary element in a DTPA claim. “A more experienced attorney could perform the task more quickly, perhaps, but, because the experienced attorney billed at a higher rate, the bill could be higher than a bill from an associate who took more time to complete the task, but charged a lower rate.” OPINION:Alcala, J.; Radack, C.J., and Keyes and Alcala, J.J.

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