Kassis v. Teacher's Ins. And Annuity Ass'n

93 N.Y.2d 611 (1999)


Two years after commencement of the underlying action, Weg & Myers was substituted as counsel for Ps. Mallin, a partner at Weg & Myers, was in charge of the case, conducting most of the discovery and planning the litigation strategy. Arnold, a first-year associate, assisted Mallin. Arnold conducted five depositions of nonparties and co-plaintiff North River, attended two court-ordered mediation sessions as sole counsel for the client,  appeared as P's attorney at a physical examination of the subject building, and conversed with Kassis on a regular basis. Weg & Myers conducted weekly staff meetings where all associates were privy to discussions of law and strategy regarding litigation the firm handled. Arnold reviewed certain portions of the litigation file in order to conduct the depositions, but allegedly 'never read the overwhelming majority of the documents contained within the file.' In February 1997, Arnold informed Roula Theofanis, the partner at Thurm & Heller who was primarily in charge of the P litigation, that he was leaving Weg & Myers. At the suggestion of Theofanis, Arnold was interviewed by Thurm & Heller and began working there in March 1997. Thurm & Heller cautioned Arnold that he would not be permitted to participate in the P litigation and that he was not to discuss that matter with anyone at the firm. Mallin requested that Theofanis detail the precautionary measures that the firm planned to take in order to prevent Arnold's inadvertent disclosure of confidential information he had obtained while at Weg & Myers. Theofanis detailed the following safeguards: 1. The entire file which presently consists of 15 redwells will be kept in my office in lieu of our general filing area. 2. Arnold's office will be at a substantial distance from my office. 3. Mr. Arnold upon commencement of his employment with the firm on March 3, 1997, will be instructed not to touch the P file nor to discuss the Kassis matter with any partner, associate or staff member of the firm. 4. There will be no meetings, conferences or discussions in the presence of Arnold concerning the P's litigation. 5. All future associates who may work on the Kassis matter with me in preparation for trial will be instructed not to discuss this file with Arnold. On March 6, 1997, Mallin moved to disqualify the firm from further participation in the P litigation. The Supreme Court denied the motion because Arnold's involvement at Weg & Myers was limited. The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that the safeguards employed eliminated the danger of Arnold inadvertently transmitting information he might have gained from his previous employment at Weg & Myers. P appealed.