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Shillen's Case

818 A.2d 1241 (2003)

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Shillen’s Case

New Hampshire Supreme Court

818 A.2d 1241 (2003)

Facts

Pamela and Vincent Hammond each retained attorney Dennis Shillen (defendant) in connection with personal-injury claims arising from a car accident. The car, which Vincent had been driving at the time of the accident, was insured through the Traveler’s Insurance Company (Traveler’s). The other driver involved in the accident was insured by Merchants Mutual Insurance Company (Merchants). During settlement negotiations, Merchants advised Shillen it had an eyewitness statement that Vincent had been speeding when the accident occurred. Vincent acknowledged that he had been speeding and told Shillen that he and Pamela wanted Vincent and Traveler’s to be sued on behalf of Pamela. Shillen discussed with the Hammonds the possible conflict of interest and believed he had their consent to sue Traveler’s. Shillen sent a demand letter to Traveler’s in which he referred to his clients as both Hammonds. Vincent signed an affidavit stating that the eyewitness was correct about Vincent’s speed and that Vincent believed his excessive speed caused the accident and Pamela’s injuries. Shillen stopped communicating with Vincent after Pamela’s action against Vincent was filed. Vincent’s new lawyer maintained that Shillen could not bring a claim against a client. Shillen concluded he had a conflict and withdrew from representing Pamela. At the trial, Vincent testified that he had not been traveling at a high speed as averred in the affidavit and disagreed with the eyewitness’s statement. The judge referred Vincent’s testimony to the attorney general’s office as possible perjury and declared a mistrial. An assistant attorney general filed a complaint against Shillen with the professional-conduct committee (the committee) (plaintiff), which petitioned the New Hampshire Supreme Court for Shillen’s public censure. The referee found that Shillen did not violate Rule of Professional Conduct 1.7 concerning conflicts of interest.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Brock, C.J.)

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