No Contingency Fee Interest in Restitution Paid for Criminal Case

Glen Stover was assaulted by two judgment-proof college students at a party in 2010, resulting in multiple surgeries, a shattered wrist and face, stitches, and broken teeth. He signed a contingency-fee agreement with John H. Carney & Associates, which provided for a 33% fee if the matter was settled before suit was filed. In the meantime, a criminal case proceeded against at least one of the assailants, Drew McClure, who agreed to accept a plea deal that included $100,000 in restitution to the victim. When that check was tendered to Carney by McClure’s father, Carney retained funds that he claimed as his contingency fee. A Dallas County district court disagreed, and the Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the restitution was paid in satisfaction of McClure’s deferred adjudication order, not in settlement of any civil claim. The Court did not reach the question of whether an attorney could ever legally claim a fee from a criminal restitution payment, but noted in dicta that “we strongly discourage attorneys from engaging in such practices.”

John H. Carney & Assocs. v. Office of Attorney General, No. 05-13-01325-CV

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