Why Ignoring an Inflated Bill is a Particularly Bad Idea in NY
If you've ever gotten an inflated bill (that's right, all of us), a recent decision by one of NY's trial courts reminds us why ignoring it is a terrible idea.
Granted, that case, Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. v. Amersino Marketing Group, et al., was somewhat of an uncommon case - lawyers suing a former client in breach of contract for unpaid legal fees. And in that case, the Court granted the plaintiff judgment on their claim without even needing to go to trial, or in legalese, "summary judgment."
One of the defenses raised by the defendant was that, at a minimum, he should be permitted to have a hearing where he could demonstrate that the lawyers' fees were excessive.
Sounds reasonable, right?
Just one problem, said the Court. The plaintiff never objected to the bills after receiving them, and certainly not within a reasonable time thereafter. In the words of the Court:
"While defendants have a right to challenge the reasonableness of attorney's fees, the court is not required to hold a hearing in this instance as plaintiff has also demonstrated its entitlement to summary judgment on an account stated. Defendants receipt and retention of the invoices annexed to EBG's moving papers, without objection within a reasonable time gives rise to an actionable account stated, thereby entitling EBG to summary judgment in its favor. See Ruskin, Moscou, Evans & Faltischek v. FGH Realty Credit Corp., 228 A.D.2d 294 (1st Dept 1996); Fink, Weinberger, Fredman, Berman & Lowell v. Petrides, 80 A.D.2d 781 (1st Dept 1981). Defendants did not challenge the reasonableness of EBG's fees when they received the invoices, nor did they raise this issue in their opposition papers to EBG's previous motion for summary judgment. Thus, they failed to object to the fees in a reasonable time and plaintiff is now entitled to the amount set forth in the invoices."