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McAllister v. Law Office of Stephen R. Leffler, PC.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

May 1, 2018

CANDACE MCALLISTER
v.
LAW OFFICE OF STEPHEN R. LEFFLER, PC., ET AL.

          Assigned on Briefs July 3, 2017

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-004475-10 Jerry Stokes, Judge

         This appeal involves a breach of contract action in which the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant and later dismissed a motion to alter or amend its judgment. The plaintiff appeals the denial of her motion to alter or amend the judgment. We dismiss the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Appeal Dismissed; Case Remanded

          Candace McAllister, Friendsville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Stephen R. Leffler, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, Law Office of Stephen R. Leffler, P.C. and Stephen R. Leffler, as an individual.

          John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S. and Brandon O. Gibson, J., joined.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          JOHN W. McCLARTY, JUDGE

         At some point in 2009, Candace McAllister ("Plaintiff") paid Stephen R. Leffler ("Defendant"), through the Law Office of Stephen R. Leffler, P.C., a flat rate fee of $7, 500 to serve as her son's attorney. Thereafter, Defendant met with Rodney McAllister, who had been charged with felony vandalism, to discuss the case. Defendant presented Mr. McAllister with a written fee agreement, dated February 12, 2009. The agreement provided, in pertinent part, as follows:

This will confirm that you have paid a reasonable fee of $7, 500 for handling the indictment for vandalism pending in the Criminal Court of Lauderdale County. This fee represents payment for services performed in the court where the case is now pending. It does not include payment for services in other courts or in matters pertaining to the circumstances of your housing while in the custody of the State of Tennessee. Payment for any additional services will be discussed with you when those services become necessary.

         Mr. McAllister signed the agreement, and a signed copy was sent to Plaintiff.

         Defendant represented Mr. McAllister at trial on October 12, 2009, after which Mr. McAllister was found guilty of felony vandalism, a Class D felony, a lesser included offense of the original charge. Defendant did not file a motion for new trial or a notice of appeal on Mr. McAllister's behalf.

         On September 9, 2010, Plaintiff, acting pro se, filed a breach of contract action against Defendant, alleging that he breached his oral agreement with her to represent Mr. McAllister at trial and on appeal for the flat fee of $7, 500. Defendant denied her claim. Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment, and Defendant responded with its own motion.[2] The case proceeded to a hearing on February 22, 2013. Plaintiff failed to attend the hearing. Thereafter, the court entered an order in which it denied Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, entered judgment in favor of Defendant, and dismissed the action, finding that the written contract superseded any oral negotiations between the parties. This order, filed by the clerk on February 25, 2013, [3] was a final judgment as evidenced by the fact that it resolved all claims and liabilities of the parties, [4] was signed by the trial judge and Defendant, and included an attached certificate of service, dated February 25, providing that a copy of the proposed order had been served on Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff filed a motion to alter or amend the court's judgment on April 12, 2013, citing numerous errors.[5] Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order denying the motion to alter or amend on March 1, 2016, based upon the substance of the motion and its untimeliness. This order was signed by the trial court and Defendant and included an attached certificate of service, providing that a copy of the proposed order had been served on Plaintiff. However, the certificate of ...


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