Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Bridgepoint Construction Svcs v. Newton (Cal. Ct. App. - Sept. 4, 2018)

The month of September begins with a bang.  With holding that's perhaps even more significant than the Court of Appeal recognizes.

Justice Gilbert's opinion says:

"An attorney represents more than one client, all of whom seek damages from a pool of money controlled by another party. In addition to multiple other reasons why the attorney here should be disqualified, when more than one client is seeking funds from the same source, the conflict is self-evident. There might not be enough money to satisfy each client's claim.

This is an appeal from an order disqualifying an attorney for a conflict of interest. We affirm."

There are lots of situations in which multiple plaintiffs seek money from the same source.  And since few defendants have infinite resources, the resulting conflict -- which the Court of Appeal's opinion expressly calls an "actual" conflict, not merely a "potential one" -- will arise in a plethora of cases.  With the resulting disqualification motions for anyone who understands the strategic value of such motions and is armed with today's opinion.

Plus, to be clear, this isn't a case involving a particular res (e.g., a $2 million insurance policy).  The conflict exists merely because the clients are seeking money from the same defendant.  The opinion makes this crystal clear:  "What Klein ignores is that Bridgepoint, Salter and Ram are all seeking the same damages from the same $2 million pool. The conflict is obvious. Every dollar that Ram obtains from the pool is a dollar that is not available to Bridgepoint or Salter."  That idential "pool" of money exists whenever multiple plaintiffs are suing the same non-billionaire defendant.

So use today's opinion.  And understand that people may well use it against you as well.

Super important.  If only because its categorical holding is (1) incredibly broad, and (2) incredibly practically significant.  For lawyers and clients alike.