Risk Update

Risk Updates — Rogue Lawyer Reveals Risk, Litigation Funding Meets Judicial Conflict, Bed Bath Conflict, Virginia Bar on Child/Parent Conflicts

Litigation Funder Wins $1.2 Million Over Lawyer-Judge Connection” —

  • “A Texas attorney must pay $1.2 million to a litigation funder that sued him for malpractice after he failed to disclose a conflict of interest involving a judge, a US district court ruled.”
  • “The attorney, Sergio Muñoz Jr., failed to tell his ex-client, Law Funder LLC, he had a business relationship with a judge presiding over a case the company joined because of its litigation investments, the firm alleged in a lawsuit.”
  • “Litigation funders provide capital to plaintiffs or their lawyres in exchange for portions of cash settlements and financial awards. The Law Funder had retained Munoz in 2011 to protect its investments in lawsuits filed by a Mexican law firm whose ownership became a subject of a divorce proceeding.”
  • “Muñoz was a co-principal in a professional corporation with Judge Jesse Contreras, who presided over the divorce case. The connection ultimately prompted the removal of the judge in the case as well as a voiding of all his orders. Law Funder later withdrew from the proceedings because it didn’t have the money to start over.”

Billion-dollar class action lawsuit against Bed Bath & Beyond – and its CFO who jumped to his death off NYC’s ‘Jenga’ building – is in jeopardy after law firm handling case BOWS OUT” —

  • “A shareholder lawsuit that is thought to have possibly played a role in the suicide of Bed Bath & Beyond’s former Chief Financial Officer appears to have run into legal trouble.”
  • “The $1.2 billion suit, which some have suggested contributed to Gustavo Arnal’s stress, has just been passed over to a new law firm based outside of Washington D.C. after a ‘conflict of interest’ occurred that ‘would like have seen it thrown out by a judge’.”
  • “Arnal, 52, was listed as one of the defendants in a class action lawsuit brought by a group of shareholders who claim they lost around $1.2billion when Arnal and majority shareholder Ryan Cohen allegedly engaged in a ‘pump and dump’ scheme that saw them sell off shares at a higher price.”
  • “However it appears as though the attorney involved, Pengcheng Si, was both acting as counsel and the plaintiff resulting in a clear conflict of interest.”

Rogue Attorneys Lurking In Law Firms” —

  • “An attorney can be a free agent, or part of a team. Increasingly, it seems the attorney can be both, at once. Carasco v Schlesinger 2022 NY Slip Op 33021(U) September 8, 2022.”
  • “David B. Cohen is an example of an attorney taking a case on in a partnership, leaving the partnership, moving on to a new firm, taking a case with him, but not transferring it to a new firm. When it all goes wrong, the question remains: Who is the attorney?”]
  • “On or about December 8, 2014, plaintiff signed a retainer agreement with defendant law firm Julien & Schlesinger (“J&S”)… ‘It is undisputed that, on January 6, 2016, Schlesinger, was no longer an employee of J&S, which ceased operations in 2015, became an associate at defendant Morelli Law Firm, PLLC.'”
  • “‘On or about January 28, 2016, plaintiff commenced a personal injury action in this Court styled Hazel Carasco v City of New York, Consolidated Edison
    Company, and Halcyon Construction Company, et. al., under Ind. No. 105779/1.'”
  • “‘Between February 2017 and July 2018, this Court (d’ Auguste, J. and Tisch, J.) issued orders dismissing the underlying action against the defendants therein based, inter alia, on plaintiffs failure to provide discovery. Doc. 54.'”
  • “Plaintiff fails to raise an issue of fact regarding whether she was represented by MLF. The sole retainer agreement she signed in connection with the underlying action was with J&S.”
  • “Plaintiff’s presumption that there would be a continuation of the retainer agreement she signed with J&S when Schlesinger moved to MLF is insufficient to raise an issue of fact…”
  • “Plaintiff conceded at her deposition that Schlesinger never told her that MLF represented her, but rather that he was representing her and that he worked for MLF. Plaintiff even conceded that Schlesinger told her as early as April 2016 that MLF was reluctant to take her case and there is no evidence that plaintiff was ever told that MLF agreed to represent her.”
  • “This Court acknowledges that plaintiff met with Schlesinger at MLF’ s offices on 3 or 4 occasions, that MLF appeared as counsel ofrecord on eLaw and/or eCourts, evidently because Schlesinger was affiliated with the firm, and that plaintiff received email correspondence from Schlesinger via MLF’s email server.”
  • “While the foregoing facts may be some indicia that MLF represented plaintiff, this Court finds that they do not raise a material issue of fact regarding whether she had an attorney-client relationship with the firm…”

Comments Sought on Conflicts Representing Children and Parents in Personal Injury Cases” —

  • “The Virginia State Bar seeks public comment on Legal Ethics Opinion 1893, a proposed advisory on representing children and “next friends” as plaintiffs in personal injury cases.”
  • “This proposed opinion addresses possible conflicts of interest when a parent, guardian, or other ‘next friend’ engages a lawyer to represent a minor child in a personal injury case against a tortfeasor, when the parent or guardian may also have a lien for past and future expenses for medical treatment of the child. “
  • “In the proposed opinion, the Standing Committee on Legal Ethics concluded that generally there is no conflict of interest because the interests of the parent and the child are usually aligned and the parent’s relationship with the child raises a presumption that the parent is acting in the child’s best interests.”
  • “The opinion also gives guidance on the types of conflicts that could arise – when the ‘next friend’ is directing the lawyer’s representation in an unreasonable way that is detrimental to the best interests of the child, or there are inadequate assets to compensate both the parent and the child.”
  • “If there is a conflict between the parent’s and child’s interests, the child cannot waive any conflict because of their lack of legal capacity, and the lawyer cannot reasonably accept consent of the parent on behalf of the child. In that case, the lawyer may seek appointment of a guardian ad litem to protect the child’s interests, may seek judicial approval of a proposed settlement, or may petition a court to appoint a substitute ‘next friend.'”