Commercial Division Blog

Posted: March 24, 2019 / Categories Commercial, Law Firms and Professional Ethics, Account Stated

Lack of Retainer Agreement Does Not Bar Counsel from Recovering For Work on Account Stated Theory

On March 12, 2019, the First Department issued a decision in Carling v. Peters, 2019 NY Slip Op. 01713, holding that the lack of a signed retainer letter does not bar counsel from recovering for work on an account stated theory, explaining:

[Defendant] claims she could not have paid him due to the absence of a retainer agreement, but failure to comply with the letter of engagement rule does not preclude recovery of legal fees under a theory of account stated. The record before us shows that, after receiving the benefit of Carling's services, Peters invoked the absence of a retainer agreement in an effort to evade her payment obligations, and the court was right to award him the amounts reflected in his bills.

Internal quotations and citations omitted).

People sometimes are surprised to learn that if they do not complain about a bill they receive, they can be found to have agreed to it. As this decision shows, such a claim can even be made when there is a law barring a breach of contract claim when there is not a written contract. Contact Schlam Stone & Dolan partner John Lundin at if you or a client have questions about a claim based on un-objected-to invoices.