99 N.J.L.J. 841
September 23, 1976
Conflict of Interest
Suing Former Client in Unrelated Matter
An attorney has submitted two inquiries concerning the
propriety of his bringing action against a former client.
In the first case he would represent a passenger who was involved in an accident where a former client is technically a defendant because he owned the car involved, although he was not the driver. The attorney had previously represented the defendant in a matrimonial and in another action, but he no longer represents him and the defendant actually referred the plaintiff to the attorney.
The Committee sees no impropriety in the attorney accepting this case against his former client. See our Opinion 154, 92 N.J.L.J. 353 (1969), which would permit such action where the attorney's representation of the former client in an unrelated matter has ended.
The attorney's second inquiry involves a married couple he represents in a case where the husband was angered in an accident and the wife has only a claim for loss of consortium. The husband has stated that after this action is completed, he desires to have the inquirer represent him in a divorce action, and the inquirer assumes that the wife has no objection. Nevertheless, the representative relationship of the attorney to the parties is too recent for the attorney to turn around and represent either in a divorce action even though both parties consent. There would always be the problem of whether the attorney had received confidential information from the other spouse that might bear on provisions in a property settlement or trial prosecution in the divorce action.