Risk Update

Conflicts Decisions and Updates of Note — Focus on Freivogel Findings

Bill Freivogel has clearly been busy with a brimming June reading list. Here are some key updates from him, shared with a hat tip and appreciation for his ongoing efforts:

  • “Cantu Servs., Inc. v. Worley, No. CIV-12-129-R (W.D. Okla. June 7, 2021). Discovery dispute. In this opinion the court found that parties being represented jointly by one lawyer enjoy a common interest privilege even after the parties interests diverge. The fact that the lawyer should have recognized the conflict, but kept going, does not remove the privilege. The court then found that the discovering party had made a prima facie showing of crime/fraud requiring that the court do an in camera inspection of the disputed material. The court’s lengthy analyses of both common interest and crime/fraud appear to be good research tools.”
  • “Prentice v. OfficeMax N.A., Inc., No. 13-71 (D.V.I. June 10, 2021). In this employment-related case the Rohn firm represents Plaintiffs, and the Ogletree firm represents Defendant. While with the Ogletree firm Lawyer worked on this case. He then joined the Rohn firm. The magistrate judge disqualified the Rohn firm. In this opinion the district judge affirmed, finding that the magistrate judge’s findings were not clearly erroneous. The Rohn firm delayed giving notice to the Ogletree firm for a month. Virgin Island courts follow the ABA Model Rules. Thus, the notice was not “promptly given” under Rule 1.10(a)(2)(ii). The court found other deficiencies in the Rohn firm’s screen, as well.”
  • “Cicchiello & Cicchiello, LLP v. Sarris, No. HHD-CV-21-6137918-S (Conn. Super. Ct. Hartford Dist. May 19, 2021). Lawrence Connelli represents Plaintiff. The Dzialo law firm is a defendant. The defendants moved to disqualify Connelli, claiming that he represents the Dzialo firm. In this opinion the court denied the motion, finding that the Dzialo firm had hired Connelli as a testifying expert, and not as the Dzialo firm’s lawyer. The court relied primarily on Commonwealth Ins. Co. v. Stone Container Corp., 178 F. Supp. 2d 938 (N.D. Ill. 2001), which essentially held that a testifying lawyer expert does not have a client.”
  • “Kimberly-Clark Corp. v. Extrusion Group, LLC, 2021 WL 2291078 (N.D. Ga. June 3, 2021). Suit by Kimberly claiming Extrusion’s infringement of Kimberly’s “‘104 patent.” There is a lot going on in this opinion. We will limit our discussion primarily to the court’s order regarding exclusion of a patent opinion. Law Firm representing Kimberly (but not in this case) had obtained a conflicts waiver from Kimberly allowing Law Firm to provide patent opinions to other clients relating to Kimberly patents. The waiver did prevent Law Firm from providing “assistance in, litigation or other disputes that are adverse to” Kimberly. One of Law Firm’s lawyers, in November 2019, provided Extrusion a non-infringement opinion relating to the ‘104 patent. This was after Kimberly filed this case and after Kimberly told Extrusion it was claiming infringement of the ‘104 patent. Thus, the court found that the opinion violated Kimberly’s waiver and ordered exclusion of the opinion and testimony relating to it.”
  • “Initial Interview (posted June 9, 2021) Tex. Op. 691 (6/2021). Does a lawyer have a duty of confidentiality to prospective clients who do not become clients? Texas does not have a version of Model Rule 1.18; they’re looking at it. In this opinion the Committee has cobbled together several Texas rules to reach the conclusion that the lawyer does have such a duty. So, if Lawyer meets with W years ago to discuss a possible divorce, Lawyer probably cannot now represent H with respect to a possible divorce from W. Lawyer’s partner could not represent H either. Consents could cure some of these conflicts. We will leave it to our Texas brethren to parse the opinion and sort through how the current, oddly numbered, Texas rules relate to all this.”