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Lawyers Feud Over Referral Fees Reaches Appellate Court

The case is captioned Ferris, Thompson & Zweig, Ltd., 2014 IL App (2d) 130129. The plaintiff law firm entered into a written agreement with the defendant, another lawyer, under which two workers’ compensation cases were referred to defendant’s law firm. Under the agreement, plaintiff was to receive 45% of the legal fees recovered in the cases with the defendant receiving the remaining 55%.

When the cases concluded, the defendant did not pay the plaintiff law firm and the plaintiff filed a breach of contract action. The defendant argued that the plaintiff should have brought the case before the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and not in the circuit. The trial court rejected this claim and entered a monetary judgment for breach of contract. The Appellate Court, in a written opinion dated February 5, 2014, affirmed in all respects.

The Appellate Court construed the Worker’s Compensation Act and held that the Commission has the authority to resolve questions relating to the amount of the fee award, but did not have exclusive jurisdiction over the referral fee dispute.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.