United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division
MARY WEAVER ANDERSON, individually and as the surviving spouse of THORNTON ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
ARIEL ARTOLA, TOP FREIGHT LOGISTICS, INC., and PROGRESSIVE MOUNTAIN INSURANCE CO., Defendants.
LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE
the Court is the motion of Daniel B. Snipes and Taulbee,
Rushing, Snipes, Marsh & Hodgn, LLC, to establish an
attorney's lien. (Doc. 11). Upon consideration of the
motion, and after holding an evidentiary hearing on November
5, 2019, the Court orally granted the motion and awarded Mr.
Snipes and his law firm a lien in the amount of $86,
111.11. This order memorializes the Court's
case arises from the untimely death of Thorton Anderson
following the collision of two tractor trailers. On July 31,
2018, at approximately 6:20 a.m., Mr. Anderson, was driving a
tractor trailer northbound on Interstate 75 near mile marker
46 in Cook County, Georgia, when Defendant Ariel Artola, who
was driving a tractor trailer owned by Defendant Top Freight
Logistics, Inc. (“Top Freight”) and insured by
Defendant Progressive Mountain Insurance Company
(“Progressive”), collided with Mr. Anderson's
tractor. (Compl. ¶¶ 9-10, 15-16). The collision
caused Mr. Anderson's tractor to catch fire.
(Id. at ¶ 16). Mr. Anderson died as a result of
the injuries he sustained in the crash and subsequent fire.
August 3, 2018, Mr. Daniel B. Snipes, who maintains his legal
practice in Statesboro, Georgia, received a telephone call
from another local attorney requesting that he meet with a
potential client. Mr. Snipes and his associate Leslie Cushner
met with Plaintiff Mary Weaver-Anderson, the widow of
Thornton Anderson, that afternoon. Mr. Snipes outlined how he
could assist Plaintiff pursue any claims she may have
relating to her husband's death and provided her with a
copy of his standard contingency fee agreement. Plaintiff
contacted Mr. Snipes again on August 6, confirming that she
wished for Mr. Snipes to represent her, and the two met in
person on August 7 to formalize the contract. (Doc. 11, p.
Snipes promptly began working to obtain an inspection of
Defendants' tractor trailer. Between August 6 and August
21, 2018, Mr. Snipes made numerous telephone calls trying to
locate the subject tractor trailer and to arrange for an
inspection. At some point, Mr. Snipes spoke with Lisa Weiner,
an adjuster with Progressive, who informed him that her
insured would not agree to an inspection. Ms. Weiner soon
retained Clint Fletcher, an attorney with the law firm of
Carlock Copeland, to represent the interests of Progressive.
Mr. Fletcher also was unable to assist Mr. Snipes in securing
Snipes learned that the tractor trailer was being stored at a
wrecker yard located in Lenox, Georgia. Mr. Snipes received a
call from the wrecking service on August 21, alerting him
that Defendant Top Freight had requested a copy of the bill
so that it could move the tractor trailer. On August 22, Mr.
Snipes filed a lawsuit in the State Court of Cook County for
wrongful death. (Compl., Doc. 1-5, p. 1-12). As a part of the
Complaint, Mr. Snipes additionally sought a temporary
restraining order to prevent Top Freight from removing the
tractor trailer prior to Plaintiff gaining access to the
vehicle for inspection. (Compl. ¶¶ 31-44). An order
granting the motion for temporary restraining order was
entered on August 23, 2018. (Doc. 1-5, p. 15-16). Mr. Snipes
thereafter hired Collision Specialists, Inc. to conduct an
inspection of the tractor trailer. The inspection took place
on September 12, 2018, and was attended by both Mr. Snipes
and Mr. Fletcher for Defendants. Mr. Snipes met with
Plaintiff the day of the inspection to discuss the status of
the case. The restraining order was lifted on September 26,
2018. (Doc. 1-5, p. 21-22).
after the inspection, Mr. Snipes learned through Mr. Fletcher
that the insurance company planned to assign new counsel for
each of the three Defendants. Mr. Snipes then had separate
conversations with David Nelson for Defendant Artola; Chris
Harrison for Defendant Top Freight; and Kevin Shires for
Defendant Progressive. According to Mr. Snipes, during each
of these conversations opposing counsel represented that
Progressive was prepared to tender the policy limits for the
case in the amount of $750, 000. Mr. Snipes informed the
other attorneys that until some limited discovery was
conducted to determine whether any other entities or assets
should be pursued, his client would not be able to accept the
offer. While Plaintiff denies ever having a conversation with
Mr. Snipes about the possibility of the insurance company
tendering policy limits, Mr. Snipes documented in a letter to
her dated October 31, 2018, that he explained to her during a
September conversation why they should not immediately accept
the offer. (Doc. 15-1). Notably, Plaintiff testified that she
did recall having a conversation with Mr. Snipes about
locating all available insurance coverage, and she agreed
with that strategy.
in early October 2018, Plaintiff grew dissatisfied with Mr.
Snipes' representation. She testified that on October 8,
2018, she sent Mr. Snipes an email terminating their contract
and requesting a copy of her file. Mr. Snipes stated that the
e-mail was filtered into his “junk” e-mail, and
he did not locate the October 8 e-mail until after a final
conversation with Plaintiff on October 30 or October
In the interim, Mr. Snipes identified a separate uninsured
motorist (“UM”) policy through Progressive. Jason
Darneille, an attorney retained to handle the UM policy,
informed him that Progressive was prepared to tender the $25,
000 policy. Before the check could be issued, Plaintiff
terminated Mr. Snipes and hired new counsel.
October 25, 2018, Mr. Snipes received a letter from Craig
Brown, an attorney in Tallahassee, Florida, who advised Mr.
Snipes that he represented Plaintiff. (Doc. 11, p. 15). Mr.
Snipes responded to Mr. Brown by letter dated October 26,
2018, stating that he had filed suit on behalf of Plaintiff
in Georgia, a state in which Mr. Brown is not licensed to
practice. Mr. Snipes further emphasized that he had already
invested a great deal of time and resources in the case and
that he had received a verbal tender of the policy limits for
the primary liability policy as well as for at least one UM
policy. Mr. Snipes expressed his intent to pursue an
attorney's lien in the event that any other attorney
filed an entry of appearance on behalf of Plaintiff.
Plaintiff did hire Mr. Brown some time around October 24,
2018. However, because Mr. Brown is not licensed in Georgia,
he located Mark Issa and Miguel Castro in Atlanta, Georgia,
who filed a Notice of Substitution of Counsel in the State
Court of Cook County on November 8, 2018. (Doc. 1-5, p. 30).
The case was removed to this Court by consent on November 14,
2018. (Doc. 1).
Snipes learned about Mr. Issa's involvement in early
November 2018. The two attorneys exchanged e-mails on
November 2, 8, and 28, at which time Mr. Snipes provided Mr.
Issa with the pleadings, service documents, and other records
and invoices he had relating to the case. Mr. Snipes did not
provide his personal notes or research. He also did not
provide a copy of any inspection report because at that time
no report had been prepared.
assuming representation of Plaintiff, Mr. Issa conducted his
own investigation of the case, contacted defense counsel of
record, and made a formal demand. On November 30, 2018,
Progressive made an official, written tender of the full
available liability coverage in the amount of $750, 000 to
resolve Plaintiff's claim. Mr. Issa also accepted the
$25, 000 tender of the UM policy, for a total settlement of
$775, 000. Mr. Issa thereafter completed the necessary
probate work to establish Mr. Anderson's estate and to
handle the disbursement of any settlement proceeds to the
minor children involved.
discovery ever took place in this case. On November 15, 2018,
the day after the case was removed to federal court, counsel
for Defendant Artola filed a motion to stay the case pending
the resolution of the criminal proceedings initiated against
Artola as a result of the underlying collision. (Doc. 5). The
Court granted the motion and stayed the case through April 6,
2019. (Doc. 10). The parties notified the Court that the case
had settled on April 16, 2019. Mr. Snipes filed the present
motion along with a Notice of Attorney's Lien on August
22, 2019. (Docs. 11, 12). Plaintiff filed no opposition to
Mr. Snipes' motion.