law-common-fund-doctrine

COMMON FUND DOCTRINE


In their first and second issues, appellants contend the trial court abused its discretion by denying their request
for expenses and attorney's fees pursuant to the “common fund doctrine.” That doctrine is an equitable doctrine
designed to prevent unjust enrichment. See Knebel v. Capital Nat'l Bank in Austin, 518 S.W.2d 795, 799 (Tex.
1974). It is founded on the principle that “one who preserves or protects a common fund works for others as well
as for himself, and the others so benefitted should bear their just share of the expenses, including a reasonable
attorney's fee; and that the most equitable way of securing such contribution is to make such expenses a charge
on the fund so protected or recovered.” Id. We review the trial court's decision regarding an award of attorney's
fees under the common fund doctrine for an abuse of discretion. Crouch v. Tenneco, Inc., 853 S.W.2d 643, 646
(Tex. App.-Waco 1993, writ denied).


08‑0722          
GRAYSON DOUGLAS GILL, ELLEN EVES DENNIS, EMILY SCANLON CRUMP, ROBERT BLAIR SCANLON AND
CALLOWAY, NORRIS & BURDETTE v. JANICE L. MATTOX, ATTORNEY AD LITEM FOR THE UNKNOWN HEIRS
OF HARRISON DOUGLAS FENDLEY, DECEASED; from Dallas County; 5th district (
05‑07‑00429‑CV, ___ SW3d
___, 06‑23‑08, pet. denied Oct 2008)(request for expenses and attorney's fees pursuant to the “common fund
doctrine.” That doctrine is an equitable doctrine designed to prevent unjust enrichment).

 The record reflects that the efforts of both CNB and Mattox were necessary for the successful completion of this
case. CNB received one-third of the maternal heirs $375,000 recovery for representation of the maternal heirs in
this case. Mattox was awarded $115,306 in attorney's fees and costs for her representation of the 1006 paternal
heirs. Although Mattox's fees and costs were to be paid by Mackey rather than from the fund, that condition was
set forth in the settlement agreement negotiated by appellants, Mackey, and Mattox. The trial court was familiar
with the facts of the case, the efforts made by the attorneys, the source of the funds, the extent of the estate, and
the results achieved on behalf of everyone involved. Examining the record as a whole, we cannot conclude the
trial court abused its discretion by denying appellants' request for one-third of the paternal heirs' portion of the
fund in addition to the amount it received from the maternal heirs' portion of the fund. We overrule appellants' first
and second issues. Having done so, we need not address appellants' third issue.
 Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's order denying appellants' request for expenses and attorney's fees under
the common fund doctrine.