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Linscott v. Shasteen

Supreme Court of Nebraska

June 6, 2014

MARTIN V. LINSCOTT, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF SHASTEEN, LINSCOTT & BROCK, P.C., A NEBRASKA PROFESSIONAL CORPORATION, APPELLANT,
v.
ROLF EDWARD SHASTEEN AND TONY J. BROCK, APPELLEES

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Appeal from the District Court for Lancaster County: JAMES T. GLEASON, Judge.

V. Gene Summerlin and Marnie A. Jensen, of Husch Blackwell, L.L.P., for appellant.

Victor E. Covalt III and Adam R. Little, of Ballew, Covalt & Hazen, P.C., L.L.O., for appellees.

HEAVICAN, C.J., WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, STEPHAN, MCCORMACK, MILLER-LERMAN, and CASSEL, JJ.

OPINION

Page 287

[288 Neb. 278] McCormack, J.

NATURE OF CASE

Martin V. Linscott brought suit individually and derivatively on behalf of Shasteen, Linscott & Brock, P.C. (SLB), against Rolf Edward Shasteen and Tony J. Brock for one-third of attorney fees recovered from SLB cases that existed at the time Linscott withdrew as a shareholder. After a bench trial, the district court held that Linscott was not owed any attorney fees because there was not an enforceable contract and the " unfinished business rule" was not applicable. Linscott now appeals.

BACKGROUND

On July 8, 2002, Linscott, Shasteen, and Brock formed the law firm SLB, a Nebraska professional corporation. In 2004, Linscott drafted a proposed shareholder agreement that specified how attorney fees would be divided if a shareholder left the firm. The proposed agreement contemplated that the departed attorney would receive a one-third share of all fees from existing in-process cases and that the firm would receive two-thirds. The proposed agreement was never executed by Linscott, Shasteen, or Brock.

Shortly after the proposed shareholder agreement was circulated, Shasteen and Brock left a signed letter on Linscott's office chair. The letter requested that Linscott leave SLB. The letter stated, " Keep all your cases and we'll keep ours or we can divide them as per the proposed agreement."

Linscott withdrew from the day-to-day operations of SLB and began practicing law with a new firm. On September 16,

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2004, Shasteen and Brock changed the name of SLB to Shasteen, Brock & Scholz, P.C. That same day, Linscott sent an e-mail to Shasteen and Brock discussing " issues" arising from Linscott's leaving. In particular, the e-mail stated, " Cases: Should be handled as proposed in the agreement, me paying you 2/3 of the fees on my SLB ...


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