Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Licking
IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF MATTHEW GREEN, DECEASE Plaintiff-Appellant
MITCHELL ALTER AND MARK FROEHLICH Defendant-Appellees
CHARACTER OF PROCEEDING: Appeal from the Licking County
Probate Court, Case No. 2017-0562
Plaintiff-Appellant ALETHA M. CARVER PATRICK D. MAGUIRE
Defendant-Appellee PAUL GIORGIANNI GUARDIAN AD LITEM S. CRAIG
JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J.
Hon. Earle E. Wise, Jr., J.
1} Administrator-Appellant Alexis Green appeals the July 31,
2018 judgment of the Licking County Probate Court approving
requested attorney fees. Appellees are attorneys Mitchel
Alter and Mark Froehlich.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
2} On October 9, 2016, decedent Matthew Green was a passenger
in Douglas Matthew Morrison's race-modified Audi R8.
Morrison was believed to be travelling well in excess of 100
miles per hour when he lost control, crashed the Audi, and
killed Green. The air bags in the vehicle never deployed.
3} The men were close friends. Green was a mechanic
specializing in high-performance vehicles, and the two shared
a love for "high-end exotic cars." Following the
crash, when officers from the New Albany Police Department
spoke with appellant, who is Green's surviving spouse,
she advised there was nothing officers could tell her that
she did not already know. She advised she knew what kind of
car they were driving, that they liked driving it for obvious
reasons, and that it could have been either one of them
driving that day, so she did not blame Morrison for her
4} Before seeking counsel, in January 2016, appellant met
with a representative of Westfield Insurance, Morrison's
insurer. The representative provided appellant with an
advance payment for expenses, but advised her that there
could be no discussion of settlement until she opened an
estate for Green. Appellant was not the sole potential
beneficiary. Beneficiaries included Green's two minor
children as well as his parents.
5} On May 1, 2017, appellant spoke with appellees Alter and
Froehlich regarding representation for wrongful death and
survivorship action as well as probate. Appellant shared her
biggest concern with the attorneys -- that she did not want
Morrison to go to jail and wished no criminal charges upon
him. She further advised she would be satisfied with less
than Morrison's policy limits and desired no personal
payment from Morrison as he had already pledged his
willingness to take care of her and her children for the rest
of their lives. Appellant did not sign a contract with Alter
and Froehlich that day. She was, however advised that the
typical attorney fee was one-third of any recovery.
6} On June 5, 2017, Attorney Steve Teetor, counsel for Morris
through Westfield, disclosed Morrison's policy limits of
$2.5 million. Appellant signed a probate fee contract with
attorney Froehlich only on July 27, 2017, and decedent's
estate was opened on August 1, 2017. On August 15, 2017,
however, appellant signed a contingent fee contract to cover
the services of both attorneys which stated the attorneys
would receive one-third of the gross amount recovered whether
"by settlement, arbitration, civil suit, trial or any
other manner." On September 1, 2017, in accordance with
Sup.R. 71(I), the contingent fee contract was filed with and
approved by the probate court.
7} On August 31, 2017, criminal charges were filed against
Morrison, specifically, one count of vehicular manslaughter,
a misdemeanor of the second degree. Morrison's
arraignment took place on September 28, 2017. He entered a no
contest plea the same day and received no jail time.
8} On October 6, 2017 counsel for Westfield Insurance
proposed mediation to settle the wrongful death action. On
October 9, attorney Alter demanded policy limits of $2.5
million plus $500, 000 personal payment. On October 24,
Westfield offered policy limits and appellant directed Alter
to accept the same on October 25.
9} On May 9, 2018, appellant through Froehlich, filed with
the probate court an Application to Approve Settlement and
Distribution of Wrongful Death and Survival Claims. The
application indicated attorney fees were disputed. The
settlement Statement set forth the following:
Funds Received: $2, 500, 000.00
Less Advance to Alexis Green: - 20,
$2, 479, 183.13
Attorney Fees: - 826, 394.37