Network Firm News

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Morgenstein & Jubelirer, Defending Former Brobeck Partners, Caps Liability at Mere $153,000 in Face of $33 Million Demand
Brenda Sandburg -- The Recorder -- 05-20-2003

A jury found Monday that Debra Pole's defection to Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison a decade ago involved some misconduct by Pole and Brobeck, but awarded her former partners [at Dickson, Carlson & Campillo] a mere $153,688 in damages. [Brobeck's trial counsel, Eliot Jubelirer, Jean Bertrand and Wendi Berkowitz, had the case for only weeks in advance of trial. They were called in at the last minute after Brobeck's long-standing trial counsel withdrew from the case. Earlier the court denied Eliot Jubelirer's request to delay the trial in order to afford the Morgenstein & Jubelirer attorneys additional time to prepare for trial.]

After deliberating in Los Angeles County Superior Court's Malibu courthouse less than two days, . . . the jury found there was no malice, oppression or fraud committed by the defendants, and thus no punitive damages were awarded.
* * *
The Dickson, Carlson partners claimed that Pole shared proprietary information with Brobeck that enabled the firm to snare its top client, Baxter Healthcare Corp. The jury voted 9-to-3 that Pole breached her fiduciary duty to her former partners, but concluded that she did not breach either the partnership agreement or the applied covenant of good faith.

David Schrader, a Los Angeles solo practitioner and former Brobeck partner, said jury instructions on breach of fiduciary duty "set such a high standard that many partners may be breaching their fiduciary duty when they interview with other firms." He said the instructions specified that a lawyer could not share any information in an interview that his or her firm thinks may be confidential.

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