Oasis West Realty, LLC v. Goldman

250 P.3d 1115 (2011)


In 2004, P retained D and his law firm, Reed Smith, LLP (Reed Smith), to provide legal services in connection with the Hilton project. P has alleged that it hired d “because, among other things, he was an attorney reputed to be an expert in civic matters and a well-respected, influential leader who was extremely active in Beverly Hills politics.” P believed that “D's statements and opinions on City development matters bore significant influence on City Council members and the local citizenry,” particularly on members of the Southwest Homeowners Association, of which P was the president. D became intimately involved in the plan and its overall strategy to secure all necessary approvals and entitlements and to obtain public support for the Project. D was a key representative in dealing with Beverly Hills City Officials, including the Planning Commission and City Council. D received about $60,000 in fees. In April 2006, D advised P that he and Reed Smith would no longer represent P in connection with the Hilton project. P's development proposal was presented to the city council in June 2006, after the representation had ended. For two years, the council and the city's planning commission reviewed thousands of pages of technical studies, held over 18 hearings, and received input from hundreds of community members. In April 2008, the council approved everything that paved the way for final approval of the Hilton project. A group of Beverly Hills residents formed the Citizens Right to Decide Committee, with the goal of putting a referendum on the ballot that would allow voters to overturn the city council's approval of the Hilton project. D “lent his support” to the group opposing the Hilton project; “campaigned for and solicited signatures for a Petition to place approval in the hands of the citizenry by proposition vote on November 4, 2008. D admitted that on or about May 12, 2008, the day the city council provided final approval to the Hilton project, he and his wife walked their street to solicit signatures for the petition to overturn the council's decision. D insisted that he at no time disclosed confidential information acquired during the representation of P to anyone, and did not believe that he disclosed to anyone that he had ever represented P in connection with the Hilton project. When P found out about D's activities, it  demanded that D and Reed Smith “immediately and unconditionally terminate and withdraw from any and all activities that may in any manner be construed as adverse to the Project, its approval or P's interests.” The citizens' committee collected the necessary signatures to place the proposed general plan amendment on the ballot as Measure H. Measure H, which ratified the city council's decision, was passed by voters on November 2, 2008, by a margin of 129 votes. P sued D and Reed Smith for breach of fiduciary duty, professional negligence, and breach of contract, seeking damages in excess of $4 million. The court denied a special motion to strike, finding that the anti-SLAPP statute did not apply. The Court of Appeal reversed. It found that D was no longer representing P as a current client, and had not disclosed confidential information acquired during the representation. P appealed.