Saturday, December 28, 2013

Spilker v. Hankin case brief

Spilker v. Hankin case brief summary
188 F.2d 35 (1951)

Defendant client appealed the judgment of the Municipal Court of Appeals (District of Columbia), which reversed the judgment for defendant entered in the municipal court in a suit upon five of a series of notes given by her to plaintiff attorney.

Client executed the notes in question for legal services rendered by attorney in a divorce action. The appellate court held that the defenses in this case were substantially the same defenses as those raised in the first action, and not again available to the client under the doctrine of res judicata.


  • The court disagreed and concluded that the appellate court had failed to consider the fiduciary relationship of the attorney and his client. 
  • The fee contract here was attended by a presumption of invalidity and over-reaching. 
  • The fee arrangement was reduced to promissory notes shortly before the termination of the litigation and appeared to be required by the attorney as condition of his remaining in the case. 
  • Next, the court held that the original suit was for a much smaller amount and some of the issues here were only directly involved in it. 
  • Further, trial judge in the first case found that there was a genuine issue of material fact remaining for trial by refusing to grant the attorney's motion for summary judgment. 
  • Thus, not all the issues here may have been determined in attorney's favor in the earlier action.

The judgment of the court of appeals was reversed and remanded. On remand, the appellate court could consider any remaining contentions of the parties not discussed in its opinion.

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