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Keuffer v. O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc.

Montana Supreme Court
373 P.3d 14 (2016)


Facts

Luke and Stephanie Keuffer (plaintiffs) were hunting when Stephanie’s rifle accidentally discharged, seriously wounding Luke. The rifle that discharged was manufactured by O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc. (Mossberg) (defendant). The Keuffers began contacting attorneys for a possible claim against Mossberg. Luke contacted Margaret Weamer, an attorney with the law firm of Tarlow & Stonecipher (Tarlow), and discussed the potential case with her. At the end of the conversation, Weamer informed Luke that her firm would not be interested in representing him. The Keuffers retained other counsel and filed a personal injury suit against Mossberg. Tarlow was retained by Mossberg in the suit as local counsel. Tarlow uncovered Weamer’s conversation with Luke during a conflict check, but determined that the phone conversation did not in fact create a conflict. Tarlow informed Mossberg’s national counsel John Renzulli of the phone conversation with Luke, but did not reveal it to the Keuffers’ counsel. In his deposition with the Keuffers, Renzulli aggressively questioned Stephanie about their contacts with and rejections of their case by other law firms, including Tarlow specifically. After the deposition, the Keuffers filed a motion to disqualify both Tarlow and Renzulli based on Renzulli’s use of Luke’s prospective client conversation with Weamer. The district court held that Mossberg’s counsel had improperly used the Keuffers’ consultation with Weamer against them and ordered the defense counsel disqualified. Mossberg appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wheat, J.)

Dissent (McKinnon, J)

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