United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
KATHERINE R. DAUPHIN, Plaintiff,
LOUIS A. JENNINGS, JR., et al., Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
THERESA CARROLL BUCHANAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
MATTERS come before the Court on Troutman Sanders LLP's
Notice of Attorneys' Charging Lien (Dkt. 427) and
Troutman Sanders LLP's Second Notice of Attorneys'
Charging Lien (Dkt. 465). For the reasons stated below, the
undersigned recommends that the amounts of Troutman Sanders
LLP's charging liens be deducted from the individual
proceeds payable to Beverly Hennager and Louis A. Jennings,
case's long and tumultuous background has been set forth
in numerous other orders, opinions, and reports of this
Court. As such, the undersigned will only focus on the
background relevant to Troutman Sanders LLP's notices of
attorneys' charging liens.
settlement conference on August 10, 2015, the parties entered
into a settlement agreement which approved the appointment of
a Special Master to perform a number of specifically
designated tasks associated with an orderly disposition of
the properties at question in this case, including sale or
lease, and to determine amounts that may be due and owing to
the partnership by the parties and by its former tenant,
Jennings Motor Company. (Dkt. 67.) The Court then appointed
the Honorable Paul F. Sheridan as Special Master to perform
these duties. The Special Master was also empowered to employ
counsel and consultants as necessary to carry out his duties.
The Special Master, with the Court's blessing, utilized
counsel for all parties to assist him by performing
specifically assigned tasks. In addition, counsel was
required to prepare pleadings and present facts and evidence
on behalf of their clients at hearings before the Special
January 12, 2017, defendants and counterclaimants Beverly L.
Hennager and Louis A. Jennings, Jr., each signed an
Engagement Agreement with Troutman Sanders LLP agreeing that
the firm would represent them in this case, including in
proceedings involving the Special Master. Subsequently, on
January 12, 2017, Stephen C. Piepgrass of Troutman Sanders
LLP entered an appearance as attorney of record for Mr.
Jennings and Ms. Hennager. (Dkt. 253.) On February 23, 2017,
William H. Hurd of Troutman Sanders LLP entered an appearance
as attorney of record for Mr. Jennings and Ms. Hennager.
(Dkt. 315.) On April 13, 2017, Mr. Piepgrass and Mr. Hurt
filed a motion to withdraw as counsel for Ms. Hennager,
citing Ms. Hennager's request that they withdraw their
representation of her. (Dkt. 359.) On May 3, 2017, the Court
granted the motion to withdraw as counsel and Mr.
Piepgrass's and Mr. Hurt's representation of Ms.
Hennager was terminated. (Dkt. 392.)
terminating their representation of Ms. Hennager, Mr.
Piepgrass and Mr. Hurt continued to represent Mr. Jennings.
On May 23, 2017, Mr. Jennings agreed in a signed agreement
that he owed Troutman Sanders LLP payment for its
representation for him and that such payment and any
additional sums would be paid from a distribution of funds by
this Court or the Special Master. On July 17, 2017, Mr.
Piepgrass and Mr. Hurt filed a motion to withdraw as counsel
for Mr. Jennings, citing Mr. Jenning's request that they
withdraw their representation of him. (Dkt. 419.) On July 31,
2017, the Court granted the motion to withdraw as counsel and
Mr. Piepgrass's and Mr. Hurt's representation of Mr.
Jennings was terminated. (Dkt. 426.)
August 1, 2017, Troutman Sanders LLP filed a Notice of
Attorneys' Charging Lien pursuant to Virginia Code §
54.1-3932. (Dkt. 427.) The notice stated that Ms. Hennager
owed Troutman Sanders LLP a total amount of $76, 409.51
pursuant to the terms of the Engagement Agreement between Ms.
Hennager and Troutman Sanders LLP dated January 12, 2017. On
August 8, 2017, Ms. Hennager filed an objection to Troutman
Sanders LLP's Notice of Attorneys' Charging Lien.
(Dkt. 433.) On February 21, 2018, Ms. Hennager again filed an
objection to Troutman Sanders LLP's Notice of
Attorneys' Charging Lien. (Dkt. 473.)
February 15, 2018, Troutman Sanders LLP filed a Second Notice
of Attorneys' Charging Lien pursuant to Virginia Code
§ 54.1-3932. (Dkt. 4 65.) The notice stated that Mr.
Jennings owed Troutman Sanders LLP a total amount of $40,
672.54 pursuant to the terms of the Engagement Agreement
between Mr. Jennings and Troutman Sanders LLP dated January
12, 2017. On February 21, 2018, Mr. Jennings filed an
objection to Troutman Sanders LLP's Second Notice of
Attorneys' Charging Lien. (Dkt. 470.)
11, 2018, the Special Master issued a status report that
including a final account that identified the remaining
distribution of assets to which each party is entitled, in
accordance with various orders of the Court. (Dkt. 501.)
Because they were not yet addressed by orders of the Court,
Troutman Sanders LLP's charging liens were not included
on the Special Master's final account.
Code § 54.1-3932 governs attorney's charging liens,
stating in relevant part:
Any person having or claiming a right of action sounding in
tort, or for liquidated or unliquidated damages on contract
or for a cause of action for annulment or divorce, may
contract with any attorney to prosecute the same, and the
attorney shall have a lien upon the cause of action as
security for his fees for any services rendered in relation
to the cause of action or claim. When any such contract is
made, and written notice of the claim of such lien is given
to the opposite party, his attorney or agent, any settlement
or adjustment of the cause of action shall be void against
the lien so created, except as proof of liability on such
cause of action.
Va. Code § 54.1-3932(A). In accordance with Virginia
Code § 54.1- 3932, "[a]bsent overreaching on the
part of an attorney, contracts for legal services are valid
and when those services have been performed as contemplated
in the contract, the attorney is entitled to the fee fixed in
the contract and to the lien granted by the
statute.'' Heinzman v. Fine, Fine, ...