SENATE BILL 6398
State of Washington 52nd Legislature 1992 Regular Session
By Senators West, Rasmussen, Nelson, L. Smith, Bailey, Craswell, Barr, Bluechel, Metcalf, Oke, Saling, Patterson and Thorsness
Read first time 01/28/92. Referred to Committee on Law & Justice.
AN ACT Relating to limitations on attorneys' contingent fees in actions for injuries resulting from health care; amending RCW 7.70.070; and adding a new section to chapter 7.70 RCW.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON:
Sec. 1. RCW 7.70.070 and 1975-'76 2nd ex.s. c 56 s 12 are each amended to read as follows:
The court shall, in any action under this chapter, determine the reasonableness of each party's fixed attorneys fees. The court shall take into consideration the following:
(1) The time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
(2) The likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;
(3) The fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
(4) The amount involved and the results obtained;
(5) The time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
(6) The nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;
The experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the
Whether the fee is fixed or contingent)).
NEW SECTION. Sec. 2. A new section is added to chapter 7.70 RCW to read as follows:
(1) As used in this section:
(a) "Contingency fee agreement" means an agreement that an attorney's fee is dependent or contingent, in whole or in part, upon successful prosecution or settlement of a claim or action, or upon the amount of recovery.
(b) "Properly chargeable disbursements" means reasonable expenses incurred and paid by an attorney on a client's behalf in prosecuting or settling a claim or action.
(c) "Recovery" means the amount to be paid to an attorney's client as a result of a settlement or money judgment.
(2) In a claim or action filed under this chapter for personal injury or wrongful death based upon the alleged conduct of another, if an attorney enters into a contingency fee agreement with his or her client and if a money judgment is awarded to the attorney's client or the claim or action is settled, the attorney's fee shall not exceed the amounts set forth in (a) and (b) of this subsection:
(a) Not more than forty percent of the first five thousand dollars recovered, then not more than thirty-five percent of the amount more than five thousand dollars but less than twenty-five thousand dollars, then not more than twenty-five percent of the amount of twenty-five thousand dollars or more but less than two hundred fifty thousand dollars, then not more than twenty percent of the amount of two hundred fifty thousand dollars or more but less than five hundred thousand dollars, and not more than ten percent of the amount of five hundred thousand dollars or more.
(b) As an alternative to (a) of this subsection, not more than one-third of the first two hundred fifty thousand dollars recovered, not more than twenty percent of an amount more than two hundred fifty thousand dollars but less than five hundred thousand dollars, and not more than ten percent of an amount more than five hundred thousand dollars.
(3) The fees allowed in subsection (2) of this section are computed on the net sum of the recovery after deducting from the recovery the properly chargeable disbursements. In computing the fee, the costs as taxed by the court are part of the amount of the money judgment. In the case of a recovery payable in installments, the fee is computed using the present value of the future payments.
(4) A contingency fee agreement made by an attorney with a client must be in writing and must be executed at the time the client retains the attorney for the claim or action that is the basis for the contingency fee agreement. An attorney who fails to comply with this subsection is barred from recovering a fee in excess of the lowest fee available under subsection (2) of this section, but the other provisions of the contingency fee agreement remain enforceable.
(5) An attorney shall provide a copy of a contingency fee agreement to a client at the time the contingency fee agreement is executed. An attorney shall include his or her usual and customary hourly rate of compensation in a contingency fee agreement.
(6) An attorney who enters into a contingency fee agreement that violates subsection (2) of this section is barred from recovering a fee in excess of the attorney's reasonable actual attorney fees based on his or her usual and customary hourly rate of compensation, up to the lowest amount allowed under subsection (2) of this section, but the other provisions of the contingency fee agreement remain enforceable.