Appellate Court Endorses Discretionary Test for Vicarious Disqualification of Law Firms Due To New Attorney’s Conflict

February 7, 2018
David W. Evans and Stephen M. Tye – Publications & Insights

In California Self-Insurer’s Security Fund et al. v. The Superior Court of Orange County (1/26/2018 – No. G054981), the Fourth Appellate District considered whether vicarious disqualification of a law firm is mandatory or discretionary where an attorney with a conflict joins a firm and the firm enacts an ethical screen to prevent transmission of confidential information between the new attorney and the rest of the firm.

This case arose from an effort by the California Self-Insurer’s Security Fund (the “Fund”) to be reimbursed for workers’ compensation benefits advanced on behalf of the Healthcare Industry Self-Insurance Program (the “Program”). The Fund hired Nixon Peabody LLP (“Nixon Peabody”) to represent it in connection with this matter. In November 2013, represented by members of Nixon Peabody’s San Francisco office, the Fund filed a lawsuit naming 304 members of the Program as defendants. Approximately 170 defendants have since settled.

Two of the non-settling defendants (“Moving Parties”), were represented by Michelman & Robinson, LLP (“M&R”). From approximately 2009 until February 1, 2017, attorney Andrew Selesnick served as Chair of M&R’s Health Care Department at the firm’s Los Angeles office, managing a team of attorneys who represented clients in the healthcare industry. Commencing in 2014, a team of four attorneys at M&R, including Selesnick, represented the Moving Parties and four other defendants, the latter of whom have since settled. Selesnick was actively involved, including participating in a confidential discussion pertaining to Moving Parties’ liability and damages and receiving many e-mails containing communications about the common defense of the remaining 170 defendants.

Reprinted courtesy of David W. Evans, Haight Brown Bonesteel and Stephen M. Tye, Haight Brown Bonesteel
Mr. Evans may be contacted at

Mr. Tye may be contacted at


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