Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Court of Appeal:
Defendantís Lawyers Not Disqualified By Plaintiffís Payment of Prior Bill
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district held yesterday a judge properly denied a manís motion to disqualify a womanís attorneys in a case he brought against her because a signed acknowledgement that the firm didnít represent him defeated any contrary inference to be drawn by his payment of the fee for that service.
The man, Xue Xin Liu, sued Yu Xin An for fraud in September 2015, and in a paternity action in October 2015. Attorneys from the Castleton Law Group in City of Industry, which An had used to set up various trusts in 2015, appeared on her behalf in both cases.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Theresa M. Traber denied Liuís April 2016 motion to disqualify Castleton. Traber was not convinced by Liuís assertion that he had an attorney-client relationship with the firm.
Justice Judith Ashmann-Gerst of Div. Two wrote the unpublished opinion affirming Traberís ruling.
Central to Liuís position was the fact that he had accompanied An on a visit to Castletonís office, when she set up a trust for their children. After that visitódespite no one at Castleton asking him toóLiu voluntarily paid Anís legal bill.
Ashmann-Gerst noted that, while payment of a legal bill can be a factor in determining whether an attorney-client relationship existed, it is not dispositive. Here, Liu had signed an acknowledgement given to him by Castleton that said he was aware they represented An and could not represent him.
The jurist also pointed out that he never spoke with the firm outside Anís presence, nor had they discussed anything but the trust at the meeting.
Alleged Language Barrier
Liu contended that Castleton had tricked him into signing the document, and taken advantage of his alleged inability to understand English. Ashmann-Gerst noted that the record showed that a Castleton attorney had explained the trust to An and Liu in Mandarin.
ďTo the extent plaintiff argues that he was tricked into signing the acknowledgement form and did not understand what he was signing because he does not speak or read English, we are not convinced. In support of his motion to disqualify Castleton, plaintiff submitted a multipage declarationóin English. He states in that declaration that he does Ďnot speak or write English language beyond a handful of basic words.í How did he sign and submit his supporting declaration in English if he does not speak or write English?Ē
The opinion mentions in a footnote that there was no indication that the declaration had been translated from Mandarin. It also indicates that Liu never asked Castleton for translations of any documents.
The jurist pointed to Liuís failure to bring his disqualification motion in a timely manner. She explained:
ďAs set forth in the appellate record, plaintiff filed two lawsuits against defendant, in September and October 2015, respectively, and Castleton appeared on defendantís behalf in November and December 2015, respectively. Accordingly, at the very latest, plaintiff was aware by November 2015 that Castleton represented defendant. Yet, he took no steps to disqualify Castleton from representing her until April 2016. And he has offered no explanation for this delay. Under these circumstances, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that plaintiff unreasonably delayed in seeking to disqualify Castleton from representing defendant in this action.Ē
The case is Liu v. An, B278728.
An was represented by James B. Green from Castleton. Counsel for Liu were Anna S. Karczag from Encore Law Group in Los Angeles; and David L. Fleck and Gigi Gutierrez of Porter Ranch.
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