EPSTEIN, BECKER & GREEN, P.C.
ANDURO HOLDINGS, LLC et al.
MCFADDEN, P. J., RAY and RICKMAN, JJ.
McFadden, Presiding Judge.
firm Epstein, Becker & Green, P.C. filed this breach of
contract action against former clients Anduro Holdings, LLC,
La Famiglia Family Trust, and Henry Datelle for $522, 489.66
in outstanding legal fees. The law firm alleged that the
defendants were jointly and severally liable for the fees,
while the defendants contended that Anduro Holdings was
solely responsible for the fees.
jury returned a verdict in favor of Epstein, Becker &
Green, but the trial court granted Datelle and La
Famiglia's motion for judgment notwithstanding the
verdict. Epstein, Becker & Green appeals, arguing that
the trial court erred because some evidence supported the
jury's verdict. We agree. So we reverse.
A trial court may grant a judgment notwithstanding the
only when, without weighing the credibility of the evidence,
there can be but one reasonable conclusion as to the proper
judgment. Where there is conflicting evidence, or there is
insufficient evidence to make a "one-way" verdict
proper, judgment [notwithstanding the verdict] should not be
awarded. In considering the motion, the court must view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the party who secured
the jury verdict. And this approach governs the actions of
appellate courts as well as trial courts.
Church's Fried Chicken v. Lewis, 150 Ga.App.
154, 159 (1) (c) (256 S.E.2d 916) (1979) (citation and
viewed, the evidence shows that Datelle formerly was the
chairman of the board of Anduro Holdings, and he and his
family have a controlling interest in the company. La
Famiglia is an entity established to loan money to and to
invest in Anduro Holdings. Datelle is a trustee of La
2010, La Famiglia sued two co-owners of Anduro Holdings in a
case removed to federal court. See La Famiglia Trust v.
O'Connor, No. 1:10-CV-1438-CAP, 2010 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 146932 (N.D.Ga. Dec. 22, 2010). The co-owners
countersued La Famiglia, Datelle, and Anduro Holdings.
Datelle retained Michael Coleman, his longtime attorney and,
at that time, a partner at Epstein, Becker & Green, to
represent him, Anduro Holdings, and La Famiglia in the
parties signed a "Joint Representation Letter
Agreement" regarding conflicts that could arise from
Epstein, Becker & Green jointly representing Anduro
Holdings, La Famiglia, and Datelle. The agreement provided
that the signatures of Anduro Holdings, La Famiglia, and
Datelle indicated their wish "to be jointly represented
by E[pstein, ]B[ecker & ]G[reen]" in the federal
litigation. Coleman signed on behalf of the firm, a board
member signed on behalf of Anduro Holdings, and Datelle
signed on behalf of La Famiglia and on his own behalf.
agreement contained nothing about payment of the legal fees
incurred in the federal court representation. At trial, the
law firm's chief operating officer explained that the
firm had represented Datelle, his business interests, and La
Famiglia in other matters, so the rates for legal fees were
established. Over the course of the representation, Anduro
Holdings paid about $400, 000 in fees. Datelle personally
made two payments of roughly $50, 000 each, although he said
that any money that he paid was a loan to Anduro Holdings. An
entity called Buona Fortuna in which Datelle owned an
interest also paid some of the fees.
point, with the defendants' consent, Epstein, Becker
& Green withdrew from the representation in federal court
because the defendants owed more than $500, 000 in fees. The
law firm then filed this lawsuit, alleging that under the
Joint Representation Letter Agreement, the three defendants
were jointly and severally liable for the outstanding fees.
Holdings consented to the entry of judgment against it, and
the case proceeded to trial against La Famiglia and Datelle.
The jury returned a verdict in favor of Epstein, Becker &
Green, awarding damages of $522, 489.66 against each
defendant. The trial court granted the defendants'