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Rico v. Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

California Supreme Court
171 P.3d 1092 (2007)


Facts

Zerlene Rico (plaintiff) sued Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (defendant) after a Mitsubishi vehicle rolled over, causing injury. After the suit was filed, Mitsubishi met with its attorneys, James Yukevich and Alexander Calfo. At the meeting, Yukevich asked Jerome Rowley, a Mitsubishi employee, to take notes. At a deposition in the case, Yukevich left the notes in his briefcase in the deposition room while he went to the restroom. Raymond Johnson, counsel for Rico, obtained the notes from that room. Johnson claimed that the court reporter, believing the notes were an exhibit, gave Johnson the notes. Johnson knew “within a minute or two” that the document related to the case and was not meant to be produced as an exhibit. Despite this knowledge, Johnson made copies of the document, discussed it with his cocounsel and experts, and used it in a later deposition. Mitsubishi moved to disqualify Johnson as Rico’s counsel. The trial court held a hearing and determined that Johnson received the notes inadvertently. The trial court then found that Johnson had acted unethically in examining and using Yukevich’s attorney work product. The trial court granted Mitsubishi’s motion to disqualify. The court of appeals affirmed. The California Supreme Court granted review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Corrigan, J.)

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