Procedural Posture

Defendant law firm appealed a judgment from the Superior Court of San Diego County (California), which, in a jury trial, awarded damages to plaintiff attorney on claims of breach of contract, third party beneficiary breach of contract, money had and received, and conversion.

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Overview

In his complaint, the attorney alleged that he referred a bad faith insurance litigation matter to the firm and that the firm breached an agreement to pay him a percentage of fees received in the matter. He further alleged that he was a third party beneficiary of a fee agreement between the firm and the client. Prior to trial, the firm requested dismissal on the ground that it could not present a complete defense because the client had refused to allow disclosure of certain confidential information. The court concluded that the firm had failed to demonstrate that its due process right to present a defense had been significantly impaired by its inability to present confidential information that was protected by Bus. & Prof. Code, §§ 6068, 6149, and not made discoverable by Evid. Code, § 958. The court stated that dismissal on the ground that an attorney-defendant’s due process right to present a defense has been compromised by the inability to present confidential information should occur only in the rarest of cases, after consideration of several relevant factors. The record showed that the evidence excluded was not directly relevant to the core issues of the case.

Outcome

The court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

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