Lawyer places lien on former client's settlement

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX -- A Valley man says a falling out with his attorney has led to even bigger problems he wasn't expecting.

Tim Andrews says following a car accident that he was in he hired a lawyer to represent him. But when his relationship with that attorney soured, so did his ability to get his money.

"It was terrifying," Andrews said. "It was the most horrific thing I've ever gone through with my kid."

Andrews still vividly remembers the car accident he and his son were involved in a couple of years ago.

"Bam! It was quick, literally, it was like an explosion went off," Andrews said. "He's screaming and he's crying and I got him out of the car."

Andrews and his son were injured in the collision and, as a result, they eventually had medical expenses.

With all the expenses and paperwork from insurance companies, Andrews said he felt overwhelmed.

"I started having problems with the insurance company," he said. "I was just getting lost."

Thinking he may need a lawyer, Andrews said he went to Beauchamp Law Offices and spoke with attorney Melanie Beauchamp about his case.

"I signed the agreement to have her represent me," Andrews said.

Andrews said he thought all was going well until he received an e-mail.

"I received an e-mail from the paralegal and a certified mail letter from her office telling me I was dismissed as a client," Andrews said.

Andrews said he then received another letter from Beauchamp Law Offices.

"I get another certified letter saying that not only have we terminated you, but we're filing a lien with the county recorder and the insurance carrier for 33-1/3 of any settlement associated with the case," Andrews said.

In fact, the lien does state Beauchamp wants 33-1/3 percent of any settlement Andrews gets in the future.

But Andrews said that's the problem. He said a second attorney he hired later eventually obtained a $9,000 settlement.

And he wants to know why he should have to give Beauchamp a percentage of a settlement someone else obtained.

"She dismissed me as a client and expected to get paid on a settlement she didn't get," Andrews said. "Someone else got that."

3 On Your Side contacted Beauchamp, who claims attorney-client privilege prevents her from discussing the matter.

However, the PR firm for Beauchamp sent 3 On Your Side a written statement saying, "Placing liens on settlements and judgments is not uncommon in the legal world."

The statement goes on to say that Beauchamp was only seeking $1,600 for time spent on the case, but that's not what the lien states.

Regardless, Andrews says the lien and this ongoing ordeal have postponed his settlement and with no money, it's hard to pay those medical bills.

"It's made me sick," Andrews said. "I just want to put this whole thing to bed."

By the way, the Arizona Bar Association tells 3 On Your Side that it is legal for an attorney to file a lien, but that it's uncommon to do that if the attorney is the one who terminated the relationship.

In any event, she is entitled to time she initially spent on this case, but Andrews says the lien has really slowed the payment down.