Saturday, April 13, 2013

Gellman v. Hilal case brief

Gellman v. Hilal case brief
159 Misc.2d 1085, 607 N.Y.S.2d 853 (Sup. Ct. 1994)

Defendant hospital brought a motion to disqualify the attorney that represented plaintiff patient in a medical malpractice action. The hospital claimed that the integrity of its legal and medical claims and defenses would be threatened if plaintiff's attorney were not disqualified because his wife had been a partner in the law firm that formerly represented the hospital and its physicians in malpractice cases.

OVERVIEW: The hospital argued that it would be prejudiced if the former partner divulged to the patient's attorney the knowledge she acquired during her prior representation of the hospital.

The court held that the hospital did not allege sufficient facts to support an inference that the former partner was privy to information that might damage the hospital if revealed or that she would improperly disclose any potentially damaging knowledge.

The former partner's representation of the hospital in a separate suit involving the medical procedure at issue in the patient's case was insufficient to create a factual predicate that justified disqualification of the patient's attorney under Model Code of Prof'l Responsibility DR 5-108. The former partner faced serious professional consequences if she acted on the financial incentive her family had in the patient's case. There was no fatal danger that the former partner would inadvertently reveal the hospital's confidences in her marital relationship because neither spouse maintained a home office, the spouses could not access each other's files, and they had spent their shared personal lives together without endangering professional confidences.

OUTCOME: The hospital's motion for an order disqualifying the patient's attorney was denied because the hospital's evidence was insufficient to establish that its former attorney would improperly divulge any information to assist her husband in his handling of the patient's medical malpractice case.

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