PHILADELPHIA — A fee dispute between actor Bill Cosby and one in a string of law firms hired to address his legal problems shows the firm was billing Cosby $1 million a month in the run-up to his first sex assault trial.
The imprisoned Cosby is challenging a California arbitration award that trims the $9 million bill from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to below $7 million.
Cosby, 81, accuses the firm of elder abuse and "egregious" billing practices, and of fraud for representing both him and the insurance company he was battling in court, American International Group Inc., over his coverage.
The arbitration panel found that Quinn Emanuel told Cosby's personal lawyer and "general counsel," Monique Pressley, of the potential conflict, but not the actor himself, and voided Cosby's 2015 contract with the law firm that included $1 million retainer. However, the panel found the potential conflict never caused Cosby any harm, and the firm did solid work for Cosby.
The Quinn Emanuel team was led by partner Christopher Tayback, the son of the late actor Vic Tayback. Quinn Emanuel lawyers charged about $500 to $1,000 an hour. Cosby is seeking refunds of the approximately $4.3 million he has paid the firm, while the arbitration panel ordered him to pay an additional $2.4 million, for a total of about $6.7 million.
Cosby said that, given his age and blindness, he did not understand the scope of the work or other parts of the contract when he signed it in October 2015. The firm worked on the case, along with local lawyer Brian McMonagle and others, through Cosby's arrest two months later and several key pretrial hearings. They parted ways with Cosby less than a year later, long before his first criminal trial in June 2017 or the April 2018 retrial, when he was convicted of drugging and molesting a woman at his Philadelphia-area home in 2004.
The Quinn Emanuel team was among more than a dozen lawyers to help Cosby defend a dizzying array of legal problems across the country as dozens of women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct or defamation. The firm was hired to work on civil cases involving just three accusers, but its work grew to include cases involving 10 women, and 40 "same-act" witnesses lodging similar accusations, across the country, according to the arbitration papers.
Over nine months of work, the firm said it racked up more than 11,000 hours of work by lawyers, along with costs including $300,000 in online searches and $48,000 for a lawyer's work reading two gossip novels and a book about the Playboy Mansion, where one of the alleged Cosby assaults occurred. The retired judges on the arbitration panel rejected those two items.
The law firm did not immediately return a message left late Monday seeking comment. Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt said he has not been involved in the fee dispute, which echoes an earlier lawsuit, later settled, that a Philadelphia firm lodged against Cosby over unpaid legal bills.
Cosby is serving a three- to 10-year prison term after he was convicted at a 2018 retrial near Philadelphia. He is appealing the conviction.