'Fixer-Upper From Hell' Spawns Court Case From Hell

DeCoursey house.jpg
Back in 2008, Damon Agnos wrote a post for Daily Weekly about a Redmond couple who won a large court award against Windermere and one of its agents. The agent had steered Mark and Carol DeCoursey toward a contractor in which he had a financial stake, a contractor that also turned the DeCourseys' fixer-upper (pictured at right) into a disaster area.

*See also: The Fixer-Upper From Hell

But their legal battles didn't end with the award. Far from it. This past Friday, a judge ruled on a related suit that you might say is testimony to a legal principle, not often articulated: A case is not over until the lawyers have been paid.

At issue is approximately $422,000 that the DeCourseys have been billed by the legal firm Lane Powell, which represented the couple in the Windermere suit. That fee is on top of $313,000 that the couple already paid.

The DeCourseys have refused to turn over the money because they say the law firm "bilked" the case for fees. For instance, they allege, Lane Powell had lawyers and paralegals making photocopies , billing the couple all the while at an astronomical hourly rate. Bob Sulkin, the attorney, representing Lane Powell, denies this.

Adding insult to injury, the DeCourseys claim, Lane Powell didn't go after Windermere as aggressively as it could have because the firm--in particular, the supervising attorney on the case, former Bellevue mayor Grant Degginger--is cozy with the area's business establishment.

The DeCourseys' main beef is with the lawyers' fees they were awarded over and above the $792,000 in damages they won ($522,000 at the trial covered by Agnos and $270,000 in a separate settlement with the contractor). The DeCourseys point out that the additional half-million dollars awarded in fees isn't enough to cover their costs--such has been the incredible financial drain of this case-- and say Lane Powell neglected several opportunities to seek more.

But Sulkin says that judges don't usually grant any attorney fees in such a case. The fact that King County Superior Court Michael Fox did so with the DeCourseys is a testimony to Lane Powell's "extraordinary work," Sulkin says. He also calls the DeCourseys' claim of poverty "absurd" given their huge take in damages.

Degginger, speaking with SW, adds that he finds the charge of going soft on Windermere "ridiculous. We took the case, we tried it and we won."

On Friday, King County Superior Court Judge Richard Eadie sided with Lane Powell. In a summary judgment, he ruled that the DeCourseys owe Lane Powell a lot of money, although exactly how much he has yet to review. He has also held the DeCourseys in contempt of court for failing to turn over documents related to Lane Powell's work for them, documents they say fall under attorney-client privilege.

Again, the DeCourseys see bias. Eadie, they point out, is married to a Windermere agent. They asked him to recuse himself from the case, even though Windermere is a bit player in the ongoing battle over legal fees. Easdie refused (and declined to comment to SW, citing the litigation before him).

Don't count this case over yet. The DeCourseys have several issues already on appeal. The "fixer-upper-from-hell," as Agnos described the house bought by the couple, has turned into the court case from hell.

While the battle for money goes on, the DeCourseys say they have yet to fix up their house. They say their second floor is sagging, their electricity isn't working properly and their bathtub fills up with sewage.

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