Thursday, March 6, 2014

Law Firm Conflicts News & Updates

The ever quotable Bill Frievogel points out several recent conflicts-related decisions of note:
  • "Sunbeam Prods. Inc. v. Oliso, Inc., No. C 13-03577 SI (N.D. Cal. March 4, 2014). Patent infringement action involving 'vacuum packaging technology.' Lawyer represented Company A for some years in vacuum packaging technology cases. In 2006 the plaintiff in this case purchased Company A and merged it into the plaintiff. Because Lawyer now represents the defendant, the plaintiff moved to disqualify Lawyer. In this opinion the court granted the motion. First, the court held that by virtue of the merger the plaintiff is deemed a former client of Lawyer. Second, the court held the representations were substantially related."
  •  "Willoughby v. Willoughby, 2014 Ohio App. LEXIS 728 (Ohio App. March 3, 2014). Trial court denied a motion to disqualify without an evidentiary hearing. The movant appealed on the basis that there should have been a hearing. In this opinion the appellate court ruled that there need not be a hearing in every disqualification proceeding. The court noted Ohio Supreme Court holdings that there must be a hearing in cases where the lawyer in question had moved from a firm on one side of a case to a firm on the other side. This was not such a case. The appellant in this case did not appeal the merits of the denial, just the failure to conduct a hearing."
  • "Spearman v. Morris, 2014 Tex. App. LEXIS 2363 (Tex. App. Feb. 27, 2014). Raising conflict for the first time in appeal brief is too late."
  • "Allen v. Gaus, 2014 Mich. App. LEXIS 376 (Mich. App. Feb. 27, 2014). Legal malpractice case. Family had a claim against Hospital. Hospital was prepared to settle and suggested Family hire Lawyer at Hospital’s expense. Because Lawyer represented Hospital from time-to-time, Lawyer had Family member sign a conflict waiver. After a settlement was approved, Family sued Lawyer. Both the trial court and appellate court, dismissing the case, found that Family could prove no damages. Nevertheless, the appellate court was highly critical of Hospital for injecting its own lawyer to represent Family."
And for those following the situation at the New Jersey Transit Board, comes news of additional developments: "Port Authority chairman hit with ethics complaint by NJ Working Families Alliance" --
  • "A coalition of New Jersey labor and other groups filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission today charging Port Authority Chairman David Samson with using his position at the bi-state agency to benefit developers and other clients of his law firm."
  • "'This complaint alleges that Samson violated the CIL by using his position as Chairman of the Port Authority to influence decisions of the Port Authority Board of Commissioners that would benefit clients of his law firm, Wolff & Samson PC,' states the complaint, filed by the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, a Democratic-leaning coalition of consumer, environmental and labor groups."
  • "Samson's lawyer, Angelo Genova, issued a statement saying, 'We look forward to a rebutting each and every of the concerns raised in this Complaint in the appropriate forum for resolving these issues.' Genova declined to comment on specifics of the complaint."

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