A Beaumont law firm claims it is out $1,000 in costs and 35 percent in fees because one of its clients abruptly dropped them as representation.

Loncar and Associates filed a lawsuit Jan. 14 in Jefferson County District Court against Christy Morgan and the city of Beaumont. Settlement Advance Funding Enterprise (SAFE) is a co-plaintiff in the complaint.

According to court documents, Morgan hired Loncar on July 12 to represent her in a case against the city after she was in an auto wreck with a city vehicle, the suit states.

Upon hiring Loncar, Morgan signed a standard contingency fee contract, assigning 35 percent of her recovery as attorney's fees, the complaint says.

Once the contract was signed, Loncar and Associates claims it began its work for Morgan, incurring costs of $1,386.98 on her behalf.

Morgan also entered into a contract with SAFE to pay for surgery and other medical expenses, assigning a portion of her recoveries to reimburse SAFE.

However, Morgan abruptly informed Loncar and Associates and SAFE on Dec. 9 that she no longer wished to retain their services, the suit states.

Immediately after Morgan's decision, Loncar told the city it intended to protect its interest in attorney's fees owed to it, the complaint says.

"On or about January 6, 2011, the City informed Loncar, and SAFE, that it did not intend to honor their interest in the outcome of the settlement of Morgan's claim against the City," the suit states.

At the time of the complaint, Morgan owes SAFE and Loncar $38,600, plus interest of 4.99 percent per month, the plaintiffs claim.

In addition to the money they say Morgan owes them, the plaintiffs seek a declaration that the defendants maintain and protect the plaintiffs' fee and expense interest, that all settlement drafts name Morgan and Loncar and Associates and that the city be prevented from excluding Loncar and Associates from any settlement drafts.

They also seek attorneys' fees, costs, a temporary restraining order preventing the defendants from taking any action against them and other relief the court deems just.

David J. LaRoe and Ryan Douglas White of Loncar and Associates in Beaumont and Sergio Aleman of Aleman Law Office in Dallas will be representing them.

Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court, has been assigned to the case.

Case No. D189-165

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