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Muriel Siebert & Co. v. Intuit

868 N.E.2d 208 (2007)

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Muriel Siebert & Co. v. Intuit

New York Court of Appeals

868 N.E.2d 208 (2007)

Facts

Muriel Siebert & Company, Inc. (Siebert) (plaintiff) sued Intuit, Inc. (Intuit) (defendant) for allegedly breaching a business agreement with Siebert. At that time, Nicholas Dermigny was Siebert’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. Dermigny had been involved in the business agreement with Intuit and was involved in several aspects of the litigation, including confidential attorney-client communications and discussions about litigation strategy. A year and a half after the lawsuit was filed, Siebert terminated Dermigny’s employment. Intuit’s lawyers then asked Dermigny if he would meet with them for an informal interview about the parties’ business dealings. Dermigny agreed. At the interview, Intuit’s lawyers warned Dermigny not to reveal any of Siebert’s privileged or confidential information to them and asked Dermigny to let them know whether they were asking questions that could potentially cause him to disclose confidential information. Intuit’s lawyers then interviewed Dermigny about Siebert’s business dealings with Intuit and other facts relating to the lawsuit. Dermigny was not asked to and did not reveal any privileged or confidential information during the interview. When Siebert learned about the interview, it moved to disqualify Intuit’s lawyers and to prevent Intuit from using any information it had obtained from Dermigny’s interview. The trial court found that the interview had created an appearance of impropriety because there was a possibility that privileged information had been disclosed. Based on this finding, the trial court disqualified Intuit’s lawyers. The intermediate court reversed the trial court’s ruling. Siebert appealed to the state’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Pigott, J.)

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