Reeve v. MeleycoAnnotate this Case
Attorney Robert Reeve sued attorney Kenneth Meleyco to enforce a referral fee agreement after Reeve referred a client to Meleyco but Meleyco did not pay the referral fee. A jury found that Reeve was entitled to recover for breach of contract and also under a quantum meruit theory, and the trial court awarded Reeve prejudgment interest. Meleyco appealed, arguing among other things that Reeve could not recover for breach of contract because the client did not provide written consent to the arrangement, the quantum meruit claim was barred by the applicable statute of limitations, and Reeve was not entitled to prejudgment interest. The Court of Appeal determined Meleyco wrote a letter to the client explaining that the referral fee would not come from the client’s percentage of any settlement, and the client signed an acknowledgement at the bottom of the letter indicating that he received the letter and understood its contents. The client subsequently testified that his acknowledgement expressed his agreement that the referral fee could be paid to Reeve. The Court found the client’s written acknowledgement that he received and understood the letter did not constitute written consent to the referral fee agreement under former California Bar Rule of Professional Conduct 2-200, and the client’s subsequent testimony did not remedy the deficiency. The referral fee agreement was unenforceable as against public policy and Reeve could not recover for breach of contract. Furthermore, the Court agreed with Meleyco that Reeve’s quantum meruit claim was barred by the two-year limitations period.