Decision no. ... in the matter of fixing reasonable fees for attorneys or agents under the authority of Section 9 of the...


Material Information

Decision no. ... in the matter of fixing reasonable fees for attorneys or agents under the authority of Section 9 of the "Settlement of War Claims Act of 1928."
At head of title:
American Commissioner
Physical Description:
v. : ; 23 cm.
Mixed Claims Commission, United States and Germany
U.S. G.P.O.
Place of Publication:
Washington, D.C
Publication Date:
completely irregular


Subjects / Keywords:
World War, 1914-1918 -- Claims -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Claims vs. Germany -- Periodicals -- United States   ( lcsh )
serial   ( sobekcm )


Dates or Sequential Designation:
No. 1 -
General Note:
Title from cover.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 004822591
oclc - 50038280
System ID:

Full Text








William J. Pilslb ry, Claimant
Robert S. Bright, Attorney

American Commissioner




Established in pursuance of the Agreement between the
United States and Germany of August 10, 1922

Ameriolo Oommsa ioner


.9 .

.,,,,,. -







William J. Pillsbury, Claimant
Robert S. Bright, Attorney

The above-named claimant has duly filed with the American
Commissioner a written request that he fix a reasonable fee to be
paid by him to his attorney, Robert S. Bright, of Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, as compensation for whatever services have been
rendered by the said attorney on behalf of and with the authority
of the said claimant, such services being of the character described
in the provisions of Section 9 of the Settlement of War Claims
Act of 1928."
The claimant has objected to the amount of the fee asked by the
attorney on the ground that it is excessive, and the attorney has
been notified of the filing by the claimant of this request that a
reasonable fee be fixed. The attorney, in response to a request
by the American Commissioner, has filed with him an affidavit giv,
ing the information which the attorney desires to have considered
by the Commissioner as showing the reasonableness of the fee asked,
20853--28 (55)

which information has been brought to the attention of the clauinit;:m',
ant, who has filed an affidavit in reply, a copy of which has bee,::
transmitted to the attorney.
The amount of the fee asked by the attorney as compensation
for his services in this matter is twenty per cent of the amount re-
ceived by the claimant from the Treasury Department in payment>ii
of his share of the award in this case. :A
This award was made on December 10, 1925, and represents the :
net damages, as ascertained by this Commission, suffered by the
owners of the schooner "A. B. Sherman as the result of an attack '.
upon her by a German submarine on June 26, 1917. The award is I
made on behalf of Clarence D. May and Jonas Steelman, surviving .3
partners of the copartnership of Jonathan May & Sons, and they
are required to apportion it among the owners of the schooner "A. B. A:
Sherman" in accordance with their shares. The claimant's share in i
the schooner was 4/64ths, and his share in the award amounts to .,!
$642.60, with interest thereon at the rate of five p'er cent per annum
from November 11, 1918, to the date of payment.
The aforesaid Jonathan May & Sons were the managing owners ;
of the schooner "A. B. Sherman," and as such retained in December, 3:
1922, the said attorney, Robert S. Bright, to prepare and prosecute h
this claim on behalf of the interests they represented. The original
agreement between Jonathan May & Sons and this attorney consists ;
of a letter addressed by him to them under date of December 29, 1922,
and their reply dated the following day, by which it was agreed that I
he was to receive "thirty-three and one-third per cent of any and all
funds we may recover from the German Government from claims as
prepared by you, the same being a contingent remuneration. If we n d
receive nothing you get nothing."
Subsequently, as stated by the attorney in his affidavit, he volun-
tarily agreed to reduce his compensation to twenty per cent, or one- '
fifth of the amount recovered, and this agreement was confirmed by.' I
Jonathan May & Sons in a letter written by them to him under dat.
of April 4, 1928.
The claimant contends that he was not informed of either of these
agreements until after the award was made% This is obviously. truwe
as to the second agreement, because it was not made until upwardis i:
of two years after the date of the award, and there is nothing in thetk;


record to show that he was informed about the first agreement until
after the second one was made.
So far as the record in this case shows, the first written communica-
tion addressed by the attorney to this claimant was dated June 20,
1925. The purpose of that communication was to notify the claimant
that a power of attorney from each individual owner must be filed
authorizing this attorney to act as the representative of each indi-
vidual owner, as well as of the managing owners. This letter in-
closed such a power of attorney to be executed by this claimant, and
also asked for evidence establishing his American nationality.
The record further discloses that in reply to this communication
the claimant wrote on September 17, 1925, to the attorney, inclosing
certified copies of the document required to establish his American
nationality, and also the power of attorney duly executed appoint-
ing this attorney, which recited that he as counsel for Jonathan
May & Sons, managing owners of the schooner 'A. B. Sherman,' has
filed a claim for the loss of said schooner," and that whereas it
becomes necessary for the managing owners or his counsel to file a
power of attorney with the Mixed Claims Commission for each indi-
vidual fractional owner of said schooner," therefore he, the claimant,
thereby appointed Robert S. Bright my true and lawful attorney
to appear for me before said Commission and prosecute my claim
of my fractional interest in the schooner 'A. B. Sherman,' and to ob-
tain, receive, and receipt for my fractional interest in the award of
the said Mixed Claims Commission for the loss of the said schooner
'A. B. Sherman.'"
In inclosing this power of attorney the claimant stated in his
aforesaid letter of September 17, 1925, to this attorney, "It is how-
ever distinctly understood, that. I am not liable, nor am I to be
charged with any expense, other than my pro rata of the actual
expense incurred in procuring the award for the loss of the schooner
'A. B. Sherman,'" etc.
The claimant sets out in his affidavit a copy of the attorney's reply
to the claimant's letter-of September 17, 1925, which reply is dated
September 19, and reads as follows: "Your letter of September
17th with contents to hand, and you have properly stated the con-
ditions under which I am acting in the matter."
The claimant and the attorney evidently do not agree as to the
meaning of the word expense as used in the stipulation in his

letter of September 17, 1925. The claimant considers, apparently>:
that the word "expense" applied to cash disbursements and out-of--:,'.
pocket expenses, whereas the attorney, on the other hand, apparently:::
considers that the fee which the managing owners agreed to pay him:
for his services is an expense for which the claimant may be charged '
his pro rata share.
The attorney states in his affidavit that all of the other parties en- -
titled to share in this award have agreed to pay him twenty per cent l:
of the total amount received in accordance with the agreement made
by him with the managing owners. It further appears, however, that ;.
he wrote to all of the other parties interested, advising them of his
arrangements regarding compensation with Jonathan May & Sons, '
the managing owners, some time, the exact date not being stated,
prior to his letters to this claimant and to them, asking for the
power of attorney directed to him. The claimant denies having re- "
ceived any such letter, and, as above stated, there is nothing in the
record to show that such a letter was sent to him, or that he had
previously been informed about the fee agreement.
The claimant also states that he was solicited by the attorney to
place his interest in this claim in his hands for collection, and that he j
understood that this solicitation was for the sole purpose of enabling
the latter to properly represent the managing owners of the schooner .
in filing its claim and that he sent the power of attorney for this "|
purpose only, as he knew it would not be necessary to employ coun-
sel to file his claim for a 4/64th interest in the schooner."
The claimant contends that in the circumstances above set forth ,
"his position is entirely different from that of any other client of
the said Robert S. Bright who might have employed the latter to
represent him," and that he was perfectly justified in stipulating and
understanding that no charge should be made by the said attorney '.
for the collection of his claim because the authority which he gave
him to do so was "an accommodation to the latter in his capacity ,:
of counsel to the managing owners."
Nevertheless, the claimant's own statement, above quoted, that he
gave this attorney a power of attorney to enable him "to properly
represent the managing owners of tle schooner in filing its claim,"
shows that he sanctioned the employment of this attorney by the
managing owners. In employing this attorney they were acting for
the share holders in a representative capacity, and they themselves I


were not expected or obligated to bear the expense of collecting this
claim. Whatever expense they incurred for that purpose was prop-
erly chargeable pro rata against the individual share holders.
For the purposes of this proceeding, it is unnecessary to go any
more fully into the question of the meaning of the word expense "
as used in the stipulation quoted above, or as to the managing
owners' authority to bind this claimant by the compensation agree-
ment made by them with this attorney, because, although the
claimant repudiates any contractual obligation or liability, he, in
his affidavit, has frankly stated that he is not averse to paying the
attorney a reasonable fee, and in this proceeding has submitted to
the decision of the American Commissioner the question of what
would be a reasonable fee in the circumstances.
Accordingly, it only remains to determine what is the reasonable
value of the services actually rendered taking into consideration the
circumstances of this case.
In addition to filing the original claim for presentation before
this Commission, apparently the only services rendered by this at-
torney for the special benefit of this claimant were to call upon him
for proof establishing his American nationality, which was pro-
cured by the claimant, and to present this proof to the American
Agency, and to correspond and confer with the Agency with refer-
ence to the establishment of the claimant's interest, and to negotiate
and agree with the Agency, on behalf of all the parties interested,
including this claimant, as to the total amount of damages to be
apportioned among them in accordance with their respective shares
in the vessel.
In determining the value of this vessel the Commission had before
it two affidavits dated July 2, 1924, by two shipowners, who quali-
fied as competent to appraise its value, which affidavits, as therein
stated, were given "for use by Jonathan May & Sons, managing
owners, in connection with its claim against the German Govern-
ment" in this case. The American Agency also had recourse to
the files of the Veterans' Bureau, through which this vessel was
insured, showing' the valuation then adopted for insurance pur-
poses and the damages determined when the insured loss was paid,
which figures were accepted by the German Agent without further
proof, and were adopted by the Commission as the basis for its


award. In the collection of this insurance Jonathan May & S
as managing owners, also acted on behalf of the other shareholl
It is evident that the services rendered by this attorney involH
a certain amount of care, diligence, and time devoted to the hitW|i
ests of this claimant, but that he was not required to pass upon ai
important legal question or to deal with any complicated factziili.
The claimant contends that he could have himself performed li..
the services rendered by the attorney on his behalf without 1iai
assistance of any attorney or counsel, and that the result, so far a i:
he is concerned, would have been exactly the same if this attornmi)
had not acted for him. Nevertheless, it is true that the entire chlims:
was presented and advanced to a favorable outcome in a more orderlyt,
and probably more effective way by reason of the presentationw:1
of all of the interests, including the claimant's, through a single::;'j1
channel, and for that reason this claimant derived a certain appre--i,
ciable amount of benefit from the services of this attorney rendered.:
generally on behalf of all the claimants, in addition to the specific .
services rendered on behalf of his interests alone, all of which must :.
be taken into consideration by the Commissioner in fixing the reason-
able fee to be paid by this claimant to his attorney.
It must also be taken into consideration that the payment of any.
fee in this case was contingent upon the recovery and payment of
an award.
It appears that on or about October 22, 1928, a check was drawn
by the Treasury Department to the order of this claimant for $969.12,
in payment of his share of the award, including interest thereon A
until the date of payment, and that this check was sent by the
Treasury Department to the attorney, who is holding the same until "I
the claimant pays his fee for his services in the matter.
The affidavit submitted by the attorney states that he has expended .'
"various sums for postage, carfare, and hotel expenses in connec:-.ji
tion with these claims, the aggregate of which is about $150, bitt '
said sums are included in the said Bright's charge for services.,".
Another circumstance which must also be taken into consideration
in fixing the fee in this case is t*at the claimant's interest in thi...:
award is comparatively small, amounting in all to less than $1,000!&!
Now, therefore, in the circumstances above set forth, and in view
cf the considerations stated in the general Jurisdictional and '|
Administrative Decision rendered by the American Commissione .


under date of September 28, 1928, and after careful examination and
full consideration of the information furnished in this proceeding
by the attorney and the claimant, and by the records of this Com-
mission pertinent to the questions involved in this case, and after
due deliberation thereon.
The American Commissioner decides and fixes as the reasonable
fee to be paid by the claimant, William J. Pillsbury, to his said
attorney, Robert S. Bright, in this case, the sum of one hundred
dollars ($100.00), said fee to be paid by the claimant, and received
by the attorney as full compensation for all services rendered in the
prosecution and collection of this claim, as defined in Section 9 of
the "Settlement of War Claims Act of 1928."
Done at Washington, D. C., this 31st day of October, 1928.
American Commissioner,
Mixed Claims Commission,
United States and Germany.


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