Friday, October 8, 2010

On former client conflicts is reporting (here) the story of Miami attorney Jonathan Aronson who was one of Royal Caribbean Cruises’ go-to defense lawyers on hundreds of personal injury and employee lawsuits for a decade. In 2009, however, the company established an in-house legal department and used Aronson for only one case. So he decided to "switch sides" and started suing the company as a plaintiff lawyer -- 65 times in 2009 to be exact. In response, Royal Caribbean is trying to get Aronson disqualified in all the cases arguing his representation of the plaintiffs against his former client is a breach of ethics and violation of attorney-client privilege, So far, these attempts have fallen flat, which is understandable if the Florida rule is like the ABA Model Rule on the subject. In fact, if the rules are the same, Royal Caribbean's argument should be rejected every time.

The third paragraph of the comment to the ABA rule states that "[m]atters are "substantially related" for purposes of this Rule if they involve the same transaction or legal dispute or if there otherwise is a substantial risk that confidential FACTUAL information as would normally have been obtained in the prior representation would materially advance the client's position in the subsequent matter" and that "[i]n the case of an organizational client, general knowledge of the client’s policies and practices ordinarily will not preclude a subsequent representation."

It is only knowledge of specific facts gained in a prior representation that are relevant to the matter in question that ordinarily will preclude such a representation.

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