Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Attorney Disqualified From Representing Three Competing Clients
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday affirmed the disqualification of a Beverly Hills attorney who represented three clients in a single action, all of which are vying for portions of the same pool of money.
The opinion by Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert of Div. Six affirms an order by Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Colleen K. Sterne.
The attorney, Robert G. Klein, initially represented Bridgepoint Construction Services, Inc., its co-owner Norman Salter, and Salter’s business associate Dilip Ram. The case concerns $2 million which those parties claim Vista Oceano La Mesa Venture, LLC owes them for construction services.
Another party to the case, Martin Newton, who has ownership interests in both Bridgepoint and Vista, initially had Klein disqualified from representing Bridgepoint and Salter, so Klein was left representing Ram. Later, Bridgepoint cross-complained against Ram and moved, successfully, to have Klein disqualified from representing him, as well.
Klein represents Bridgestone in a related case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.
“Klein appears to believe there is no conflict of interest because he is not suing Bridgepoint or Salter; instead, Bridgepoint, Salter and Ram are all suing Vista and Newton. 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.
“Here Klein simultaneously represents Bridgepoint in the Arizona action and Ram in the instant action. Thus, disqualification is automatic.”
Gilbert said there are “multiple other reasons why the attorney here should be disqualified,” and observed that “[t]he court would have abused its discretion had it not disqualified Klein.”
The case is Bridgepoint Construction Services, Inc. v. Newton, B283239.
Klein was counsel for Ram on appeal; Bridgepoint was represented by Jordan T. Porter of Santa Barbara; acting for Newton was Gregg A. Martin of Hamburg, Karic, Edwards & Martin, LLP in Los Angeles.
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