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Bevan v. Fix

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff hired a lawyer to represent him in a criminal battery charge, which he obtained after committing acts against his girlfriend. Plaintiff married this girlfriend two years later. Then, his lawyer who represented him in the criminal case ended up representing his wife in a divorce battle. Plaintiff sued the lawyer for legal malpractice.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    An attorney has breached his fiduciary duties of confidentiality and loyalty to his former client when he uses his knowledge or information acquired in that relationship in furtherance of a new legal representation against that client.

    Facts.

    Steven Bevan (Plaintiff) hired William Fix (Defendant) as his lawyer to represent him on a criminal battery charge. Plaintiff was charged with criminal battery for acts against his girlfriend, Jenni Jones.  With the help of Defendant’s representation, Plaintiff ended up taking a plea deal. After two years passed, Plaintiff married Jones; however, Jones ended up filing for divorce with the help of Defendant. Defendant subsequently withdrew from representing Jones due to their sexual relationship. After the divorce was finalized, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Defendant for legal malpractice. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted after concluding that Defendant did not owe Plaintiff a duty of care because their attorney-client relationship ended years before Defendant represented Jones in the divorce proceeding. The trial court also found that Plaintiff did not present evidence of damages. As a result, Plaintiff appealed.

    Issue.

    Has an attorney beached his fiduciary duties of confidentiality and loyalty to his former client when he uses his knowledge or information acquired in that relationship in furtherance of a new legal representation against that client?

    Held.

    Yes. An attorney has breached his fiduciary duties of confidentiality and loyalty to his former client when he uses his knowledge or information acquired in that relationship in furtherance of a new legal representation against that client. Although Defendant had a fiduciary duty to Plaintiff to not use his former representation of Plaintiff against him when representing Jones in the divorce proceeding, Plaintiff presented no evidence to suggest that Defendant’s conduct caused him injury or harm. Because there is no evidence of damages to support a claim of legal malpractice, the trial court’s judgment is affirmed.

    Discussion.

    According to Rule 1.9 of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney cannot, on termination of employment of a client, represent another person who has an adverse interest against the former client. An attorney has a fiduciary duty to his former client relating to conflicts of interest. When an attorney represents a new client and that representation affects the interests of a former client in that the attorney is required to do something that will negatively affect the former client, then that attorney has breached his fiduciary duty to his former client.


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