The State Bar of California’s Rule 1.7, which is often referred to as the “Hot Potato Rule,” states that attorneys in the Golden State are not permitted to represent a client if that representation would adversely affect another client unless the affected client gives them express written consent. A Hollywood producer says that her lawyer violated this rule when taking on a production company. The producer alleges in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles on Oct. 18 that her attorney admitted to the conflict of interest and then dropped her as a client.

The plaintiff, who spent 20 years producing the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” claims in her lawsuit that her attorney negotiated contracts on her behalf with production companies that she also represented. The producer says that the ensuing agreements were detrimental to her but beneficial to the production companies. The lawsuit also names the production company as a defendant.

The producer is suing her attorney for unfair business practices, legal malpractice and violating the fiduciary relationship that lawyers have with their clients. She also says that the production company violated California law by not providing her with a written fee agreement. She is asking the court to declare that her fee arrangement with the law firm is unenforceable and void and seeks both compensatory and punitive damages. She also wants all of the legal fees she paid to her attorney refunded.

Individuals may have civil remedies available to them when they suffer injury, loss or damage because lawyers, doctors or other professionals failed to meet standards expected of them. When pursuing this kind of lawsuit, attorneys with experience in this area may seek compensatory damages to cover any financial losses their clients suffered and punitive damages to deter other professionals from engaging in the same kind of behavior.

Source: The California State Bar, Rule 1.7 Conflict of Interest: Current Clients