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A lawsuit claims he was charged more than $1 million for work that could have been free.
Published Sep. 15, 2009

Hulk Hogan's legal bills have now piled so high that he has hired attorneys to sue his attorneys.

Hogan, who was sued after his son's highly publicized 2007 car crash in downtown Clearwater, began shoveling out so much cash to a law firm that even he couldn't afford it, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court.

The wrestling icon and television star was paying Zuckerman Spaeder's lawyers as much as $550 an hour, as much as $300,000 at a time. He shelled out more than $1.5 million, just to that firm.

But earlier this year, the lawsuit states, he learned something new: His insurance company had tried to provide him a better-qualified attorney for free.

It means, according to the lawsuit, that Hogan - whose real name is Terry Bollea - spent more than $1 million in unnecessary fees for a team of defense attorneys that did not produce a single deposition, for a civil case that has still not gone to trial.

Zuckerman Spaeder denied the lawsuit's claims in a statement released through its press agent: "We are proud of the work our lawyers performed for Terry Bollea and for his son, Nick Bollea. The charges being made by Terry Bollea are simply baseless."

The problems began in August 2007, when Nick Bollea crashed his Toyota Supra into a palm tree during a street race in downtown Clearwater. His friend and passenger John Graziano suffered catastrophic injuries, and was in the hospital until last week.

Nick Bollea eventually pleaded no contest to reckless driving and served 166 days in the Pinellas County Jail.

Lawyers have cropped up everywhere in this saga: Lawyers in Nick Bollea's criminal case, lawyers in a civil case filed on behalf of Graziano, lawyers in a murder-for-hire case against Graziano's father, lawyers in Terry and Linda Bollea's divorce case and now, lawyers suing other lawyers.

The latest dispute started with a negligence lawsuit filed in March 2008 for Graziano, naming Terry and Nick Bollea, and a family friend, as defendants. The lawsuit is designed to provide money for Graziano's long-term care.

As is common in auto negligence cases, Terry Bollea's insurance company was required to offer him a defense attorney. And Progressive Insurance tried to do so, selecting Bryan Reynolds, a board-certified civil trial lawyer.

But Zuckerman Spaeder never told him that, according to the lawsuit. Instead, it sat on the information about Reynolds and maneuvered to keep its own local attorneys, Lee Fugate and Morris "Sandy" Weinberg, on the case, according to the lawsuit. Neither is board-certified, and the lawsuit claims they had little expertise in the type of law they would be practicing in this case.

The legal malpractice lawsuit also claims that Bollea was charged at attorneys' rates for work that actually was performed by paralegals.

In addition to working on the civil case, Zuckerman Spaeder had a role in the criminal case, along with an outside attorney, Kevin Hayslett, who is not a defendant in the lawsuit.