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Attorney negligence case focus: conflict of interest

A recent litigation matter in another state is representative of the type of attorney malpractice cases that arise with some frequency in Los Angeles and elsewhere throughout Southern California. We pass along its relevant details to our readers, given its interest and broad relevance, as well as the potential for similar matters to recur locally and in other areas.

Attorney negligence is at the heart of the matter, specifically the contention of a high-tech wireless communication firm that its legal counsel acted unlawfully by representing both it and a rival company on a common venture at the same time.

Axcess International Inc. deems that negligence and a clear conflict of interest. The company states that such unethical and illegal dual representation by the law firm Baker Botts essentially robbed it of millions of dollars because certain technology patents that should have been the property of Axcess ended up with its competitor. Axcess is seeking $51 million in damages.

A trial on the matter recently concluded, with jury deliberations commencing earlier this week. Axcess’ legal counsel states that Baker Botts knew early on during its representation of Axcess that its representation of Axcess’ rival spelled a legal conflict. Rather than promptly divulging the conflict, as legally required, Axcess’ legal team states that the firm “kept Axcess in the dark.”

Unsurprisingly, the firm’s attorney disputes that portrayal, countering that Axcess’ claim is in bad faith and that there “is no negligence, no harm and no proximate cause.” The lawyer argues that the case is really about systemic improvements to technology that has long been in the public domain rather than about true patent infringement.

Source: Dallas Morning News, "Jury deliberating Baker Botts' legal malpractice case," Natalie Posgate, May 14, 2014

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