What is a Conflict Of Interest in Delaware Law?

Personal injury Attorney Ben Schwartz answers a viewers question on conflict of interest in Delaware law. The viewer said, “I had a consultation with a lawyer several years ago about filing for bankruptcy protection. Afterwards, I was in a car accident where I crashed into somebody – now I am getting sued. The Delaware lawyer suing me is the same lawyer who I met with for the Delaware bankruptcy case. Isn’t that illegal?” Please take a moment to read the transcript below or simply watch the video.

What is a Conflict Of Interest in Delaware Law?

Video Transcript:

Hi, I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz.

Today we are going to answer a viewer question from Pete in Milford, Delaware. Pete wrote us and he said, “I had a consultation with a lawyer several years ago about filing for bankruptcy. Afterwards, I was in a car accident where I crashed into somebody – now I am getting sued. The Delaware lawyer suing me is the same lawyer that I met with for the Delaware bankruptcy case. Isn’t that illegal?”

It is a good question, Pete. It could be illegal, it might not be illegal. What you are talking about is called a potential conflict of interest. In other words, a lawyer is bound by the rules of professional conduct and one of the rules has to do with conflicts of interest. For example, Pete, if you came to me and you hired me to defend you for the ticket case. Let’s say in that car accident, you got the ticket. You came to me and you hired me for the ticket case. We beat the ticket. We won and then the person that you hit came to me and wanted me to represent them in the personal injury case against you, that would be a conflict of interest. I cannot defend you on one day in the ticket case, in the car accident matter, and then on the next day represent the person you hit against you, that is a direct incurable conflict of interest. You are not talking about representation in the same matter. You are talking about representation years prior in a different matter and so it is not a direct conflict of interest.

The question is, did the lawyer get any information from you in that confidential Delaware bankruptcy consultation, which that lawyer might now use against you, now that he is representing someone else against you? If you gave him or her information that now is going to be used against you, then that could be a conflict of interest. I would say unless that situation exists, there probably is no conflict of interest preventing that lawyer from going against you now. A lawyer can be on your side in the beginning and go against you later. Quite frankly, in the State of Delaware, where it is a pretty small state and everyone tends to know one another, especially downstate where there might be just a handful of attorneys in a small town or in a smaller geographic area, it is not incredibly uncommon to run into this situation. I hope that answers your question.

I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz & if you have questions for me relating to the law, relating to personal injury litigation, or the practice of law, send me an email below. Please be sure to let us know if you want your question answered in video format like this.

What is a Conflict Of Interest in Delaware Law?

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