ANNAPOLIS – A divided Maryland Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for a Montgomery County attorney who reneged on a deal to split a legal fee with another lawyer.
Alan F. Post said Douglas M. Bregman had not done “proportional work” in a 1989 workers’ compensation case that Bregman referred to him. When the case was settled in 1994, Post refused to give Bregman the 40 percent of the $260,000 fee.
Post sued to break his agreement and Bregman countersued for his $104,000 cut of the fee.
Post claimed that the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct, which require proportional work in fee- splitting deals, applied to the case.
Bregman, who remained listed as co-counsel on the workers’ compensation claim throughout the case, said he did the work and that Post violated their contract.
“In terms of living up to the agreement, I was `Johnny-on- the-spot’ and was ready to do everything asked of me (in trying the case),” Bregman said in a telephone interview Thursday.
The Montgomery Circuit Court and the Court of Special Appeals agreed with Bregman and ordered Post to pay.
But a five-judge majority of the high court ruled that the Rules of Professional Conduct, written by the Maryland State Bar Association, have “the force of law” in disputes between attorneys. They remanded the case to the circuit court.
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Howard S. Chasanow said that Post should also have been required to prove that he had done his share of the work if he was going to claim the Bregman had not. He was joined in his dissent by Judge John C. Eldridge.
Post could not be reached for comment.
Now that the high court has declared those ethical standards are material, Bregman believes he still will win the judgment.
But more importantly to him, is “getting on with real life.”
“I’m very circumspect and I always have been, but it certainly has made me a lot more careful,” he said.