Hogan (whose real name is Terry Bollea is suing his two former attorneys, Morris “Sandy” Weinberg Jr. and Lee Fugate, of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, for malpractice in their representation of him and his son Nick Bollea in his son’s 2007 car crash. In the accident, John Graziano, 24, suffered severe brain damage as a passenger in Bollea’s car. Nick Bollea was eventually sentenced to eight months for the crash which involved drag racing at 100 mph until he wrapped his yellow Toyota Supra around a palm tree. Alcohol was found in his bloodstream.
Hogan alleges that he found out later that Progressive was responsible for all necessary legal costs, but that Weinberg and Fugate never told him. Moreover, he alleges that, while charging him excessive fees, they never told him that Progressive attempted numerous times to communicate with him.
The Hulk says in the Complaint that “[i]t is common knowledge throughout the legal profession experienced in such matters, especially in the area of insurance defense litigation and personal injury law, that automobile insurance policies include the aforementioned duty to defend the insured, as well as any permissive user, should a civil suit arise or the possibility of a civil claim exist. . . Defendants made no effort to advise of this important fact. Defendants were further aware, or should have been, that Bollea had no experience in the area of insurance.”
Zuckerman Spaeder denies the allegations in a public statement, here. It stresses that “[t]he charges made by Terry Bollea are simply baseless. The Bollea’s came to Zuckerman Spaeder under very difficult circumstances. Both Terry Bollea and his son faced the threat of criminal prosecution and civil litigation. Zuckerman Spaeder, working with a co-counsel, achieved a very favorable result in the criminal case,”
The firm suggests a simple contractual defense, pointing out that “[w]e had a written agreement signed by Terry Bollea and [his son] Nick Bollea that laid out our rates, and on request, we provided written estimates of the time and costs we expected to incur. Mr. Bollea paid the bills and did not raise any complaints about our representation.”
Of course, this alone would not necessarily answer the malpractice question. Specifically, does a firm have a duty to point out that a client has an alternative to their representation (since Progressive is unlikely to pay full Zuckerman Spaeder fees)? It is an interesting legal ethics question.
He is the co-chair of the American Bar Association’s White Collar Crime Committee.
Below is the first pre-trial face off between the Hulk and Sandy “the Wrecking Ball” Weinberg:
For the exhibits in the case, click here.
For the complaint, click here.