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Florida Fifth DCA affirms trial court ruling that defendant insurance company did not impair attorney’s lien by paying over settlement proceeds to successor counsel

On March 15, 2019, in Law Office of Michael B. Brehne, PA, v. Poreter Law Firm et al,  No. 5D17-3850, the Florida Fifth DCA affirmed a trial court ruling that the defendant insurance company had not impaired an attorney’s lien by paying over settlement proceeds to a successor law firm.  The plaintiff in the case, the original law firm representing the client who obtained a settlement from the insurance company, had filed a charging lien when the client obtained new counsel.  When the underlying case subsequently settled, the settlement funds were paid by the insurance company to the successor counsel, who agreed to hold, and has continued to hold, the disputed funds in trust.  The plaintiff law firm maintained that the insurance company should have reserved the amount of the charging lien rather than paying it over with the rest of the settlement.  The Fifth DCA concluded that since the funds remain in trust, the lien has not been impaired.  However, the Court pointed out that the insurance company cannot avoid liability for the attorney’s fees subject to lien simply because it transferred the funds to a third party, citing Hall, Lamb & Hall, P.A. v. Sherlon Invs. Corp., 7 So. 3d 639, 641 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009).