IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
June 13, 2011
JOSEPH E. HUDAK, PLAINTIFF,
REGIS W. BOBITSKI AND LISA A. BOBITSKI,
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT
This is a diversity case in which pro se Plaintiff Joseph E. Hudak ("Plaintiff" or "Hudak") has brought state law claims against pro se Defendants Regis W. Bobitski and Lisa A. Bobitski (collectively ADefendants@) alleging breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and failure to pay account stated related to Defendants' alleged failure to pay Plaintiff attorneys' fees owed for legal services rendered. Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Amended Motion for Summary Judgment on Count 1 Breach of Contract Claim Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requesting that I enter judgment in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendant Regis Bobitski*fn1 in the amount of $142,225. (Docket No. 35). Despite notice, Regis Bobitski has not responded to Plaintiff's Motion. After a careful review of Plaintiff's submissions, the motion for summary judgment is denied.
Contrary to his previous motion for summary judgment in which he sought to recover $142,125 under Counts 2 and 3 of his Complaint (unjust enrichment and failure to pay an account stated), Hudak now seeks to recover this amount under Count 1 of the Complaint -- breach of contract. Hudak's current theory is that the Bobitskis terminated their relationship with him prior to recovery in the relevant action and, therefore, under applicable contract law, he is entitled to the actual value of the services he performed. Hudak submits that the actual value of such services equals $142,225.
Hudak's new arguments in favor of summary judgment are unpersuasive. As an initial matter, unless the fee agreement at issue provides otherwise, the proper vehicle for relief when a client terminates the attorney-client relationship prior to recovery under a contingency-fee arrangement is an action in quantum meruit, not breach of contract. See Mager v. Bultena, 797 A.2d 948, 954-57 & n.8 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2002) (where the contract between the attorney and client did not provide for any monies to be paid if the attorney was terminated prior to a verdict or settlement in the action, the attorney had no claim against the client for breach of contract);
Sundheim v. Beaver County Bldg. & Loan Ass'n, 14 A.2d 349, 533 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1940) ("A client may terminate his relation with an attorney at any time, notwithstanding a contract for fees, but if he does so, thus making the performance of the contract impossible, the attorney is not deprived of his right to recover on a quantum meruit [claim] a proper amount for the services which he has rendered."); see also F.D.I.C. v. Brodie, 602 So. 2d 1358, 1361-61 (Fla. App. Ct. 1992) (same). Thus, Hudak is not entitled to summary judgment in his favor on his breach of contract claim.
Even if I construe Hudak's motion as seeking relief under his unjust
enrichment claim, summary judgment is still inappropriate.*fn2
As set forth in my opinion and order denying Hudak's prior
motion for summary judgment, there remain genuine issues of fact as
to, inter alia, the value of Hudak's alleged services.
Even assuming the rates Hudak currently seeks reflect
his standard hourly rates, the record is insufficient for me to make a
determination as to whether those rates are reasonable or otherwise
reflect the value of Hudak's services. For
this reason as well,
Hudak's summary judgment motion is denied.*fn3
In short,summary judgment is warranted only when the evidence shows that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. For the reasons set forth above, genuine issues of material fact remain in this case, and summary judgment is inappropriate at this juncture.
THEREFORE, this 13th day of June, 2011, it is hereby ORDERED that Plaintiff's Amended Motion for Summary Judgment on Count 1 Breach of Contract Claim Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 (Docket No. 35) is denied.
BY THE COURT:
Donetta W. Ambrose Senior U.S. District Judge