On 05/01/2018 ROCIO DEVORA filed a Personal Injury - Other Personal Injury lawsuit against COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Norwalk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are STEPHEN I. GOORVITCH and JOHN A. TORRIBIO. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Pending - Other Pending
Los Angeles County Superior Courts
Los Angeles, California
STEPHEN I. GOORVITCH
JOHN A. TORRIBIO
COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION
DOES 1 TO 50
COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION
DOES 1 TO 50
VAZIRI LAW GROUP APC
SHAY DAVID CARL
YUKEVICH JAMES JOHN
10/21/2020: Declaration - DECLARATION OF ALFONSO ORTEGA, ESQ. RE MEET AND CONFER EFFORTS RE PLAINTIFFS MOTION TO COMPEL DEFENDANT TO PRODUCE PERSON MOST KNOWLEGABLE FOR DEPOSITION, AND PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS AT
9/11/2020: Opposition - OPPOSITION OF PLAINTIFF TO COSTCO WHOLESALE CORP'S MOTION TO SEAL CONFIDENTIAL DOCUMENTS/EXHIBIT F
8/13/2020: Reply - REPLY PLAINTIFFS REPLY TO DEFENDANTS OPPOSITION TO PLAINTIFFS MOTION FOR ORDER COMPELLING DEFENDANT TO PRODDUCE PERSON MOST KNOWLEGABLE FOR DEPOSITION, AND PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS AT DEPOSI
8/7/2020: Opposition - OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER RE SITE INSPECTION
7/22/2020: Ex Parte Application - EX PARTE APPLICATION TO ADVANCE HEARING
6/5/2020: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER)
5/26/2020: Appeal - Notice of Filing of Notice of Appeal
5/4/2020: Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (COURT ORDER) OF 05/04/2020
3/25/2020: Order - ORDER FOR DEFENDANT COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION'S MOTION TO DISQUALIFY DAVID C. SHAY AND VAZIRI LAW GROUP, APC; MOTION TO STAY OF ALL PROCEEDINGS PENDING RULING ON MOTION TO DISQUALIFY PLAINT
3/24/2020: Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (COURT ORDER) OF 03/24/2020
1/23/2020: Declaration - DECLARATION OF NINA J. KIM IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISQUALIFY
1/23/2020: Motion to Disqualify Counsel
12/13/2019: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON EX PARTE APPLICATION TO CONTINUE HEARING ON DEFEND...)
4/25/2019: Separate Statement
6/5/2019: Informal Discovery Conference Form for Personal Injury Courts
6/12/2019: Opposition - OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION, SET ONE
6/18/2019: Response - RESPONSE PLAINTIFF'S RESPONSE TO DEFENDANT COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION'S OBJECTIONS TO EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES TO REQUESTS FOR PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS, SE
7/27/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS -
Hearing02/18/2021 at 13:30 PM in Department C at 12720 Norwalk Blvd., Norwalk, CA 90650; Hearing on Motion for Summary JudgmentRead MoreRead Less
Hearing02/18/2021 at 14:30 PM in Department F at 12720 Norwalk Blvd., Norwalk, CA 90650; Trial Setting ConferenceRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 2:30 PM in Department F; Trial Setting Conference - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by CourtRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 1:30 PM in Department C; Hearing on Motion for Summary Judgment (or in the alternative summary adjudication; RES No. 677104412063) - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by CourtRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 09:30 AM in Department F; Jury Trial ((time estimate for trial is 5-7 days)) - Not Held - Advanced and VacatedRead MoreRead Less
DocketNotice (of Errata for Notice of Ruling); Filed by Costco Wholesale Corporation (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Docketat 09:30 AM in Department C; Hearing on Motion for Protective Order - Held - Taken under SubmissionRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 09:30 AM in Department C; Hearing on Motion to Compel (PMK Deposition) - Held - Taken under SubmissionRead MoreRead Less
DocketMinute Order ( (Hearing on Defense Motion for Protective Order; Hearing on P...)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketDeclaration (OF ALFONSO ORTEGA, ESQ. RE MEET AND CONFER EFFORTS RE DEFENDANT COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION?S MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER RE: SITE INSPECTION); Filed by Rocio Devora (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketMinute Order ((Non-Appearance Case Review re: removal to Federal Court)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketNotice of Remand from Federal Court; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketDEFENDANT COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION'S NOTICE TO ADVERSE PARTY OF REMOVAL OF ACTION TO FEDERAL COURTRead MoreRead Less
DocketAnswer; Filed by Costco Wholesale Corporation (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
DocketDEFENDANT COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION'S ANSWER TO PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINTRead MoreRead Less
DocketPROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
DocketProof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by Plaintiff/PetitionerRead MoreRead Less
DocketSUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
DocketUNLIMITED COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES: 1. PRMISIS LIABILITY 2. NEGLICENCERead MoreRead Less
DocketComplaint; Filed by Rocio Devora (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Case Number: BC704678 Hearing Date: October 22, 2020 Dept: C
DEVORA v. COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION
CASE NO.: BC704678
I. Defendant’s Motion for Protective Order Regarding Plaintiff’s Demand for Site Inspection is CONTINUED to Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. in Dept. SE-C.
II. Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Defendant to Produce Person Most Knowledgeable for Deposition and to produce Responsive Documents is CONTINUED to Thursday, Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. in Dept. SE-C.
Moving Party to give Notice.
On August 20, 2020, this Court CONTINUED the aforementioned matters and issued the following ruling, “The parties are ORDERED to comply with CCP §§ 2016.040 and §2025.450(b)(2). If after complying with these requirements, court intervention is needed, the parties may appear and argue the merits on the continued hearing date.” (08/20/2020, Min. Order.)
On October 14, 2020, Defendant’s Counsel filed her Supplemental Declaration Regarding Costco Wholesale Corporation’s Meet and Confer Efforts Pursuant to the August 20, 2020 Court Order, in Support of the Motion for Protective Order re: Site Inspection. The Court has reviewed Counsel’s Declaration and is not persuaded that counsel have exhausted their meet and confer obligations pursuant to the Code. Counsel are advised that their meet and confer efforts should go beyond merely sending letters stating their respective positions. (See Townsend v. Superior Court (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 1431, 1439.) The Court notes that it is not in receipt of any additional filings with respect to Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel the PMK deposition.
In order to facilitate further meet and confer by the parties, these matters are CONTINUED as indicated above.
Counsel are ORDERED to make further efforts to resolve the issues presented. If, after exhausting those efforts, court intervention is needed, counsel may appear and argue the merits on the continued hearing date. If counsel are unable to informally resolve their discovery disputes, then counsel are ORDERED to submit a detailed JOINT STATEMENT with respect to both Motions, outlining the remaining disputed issues for which a ruling is required. The Joint Statement must be E-FILED on or before Monday, January 4, 2020.
Case Number: BC704678 Hearing Date: September 24, 2020 Dept: C
DEVORA v. COSTCO WHOLESALE
CASE NO.: BC704678
JUDGE: OLIVIA ROSALES
1. Defendant’s Motion to Deem Documents as Confidential Pursuant to Protective Order is GRANTED.
2. Defendant’s Motion to Seal Confidential and/or Proprietary Information is DENIED. The motion is premature.
Defendant is ORDERED to provide Plaintiff with an unredacted copy of the document Bates Stamped COSTCO-DEVORAOOOOO1-000254 within 30 days of service of the court’s order.
Defendant to give NOTICE.
On May 1, 2018, Plaintiff Rocio Devora (“Plaintiff”) filed an action for premises liability and negligence against Defendant Costco Wholesale Corporation (“Defendant”). Plaintiff alleges that on August 7, 2016, she slipped and fell on Defendant’s premises located at 340 Civic Way, Lakewood, California 90712.
The parties had a discovery dispute, causing Plaintiff to file a motion to compel further responses and Defendant to file a protective order.
On July 23, 2019, the court granted in part Plaintiff’s motion (“Compel Motion”), and the court entered a protective order (“Protective Order”).
Per the Protective Order, Defendant could, in good faith, mark any document as “Confidential” or “Subject to Confidentiality Order.” In the event that Plaintiff disagreed with such designation, the parties agreed to meet and confer in good faith. If the parties did not reach an agreement, Defendant could file a motion within 40 days of receiving written notice from Plaintiff to move the court to protect the information at dispute. If any party intended to use information designated as “Confidential” in any pleading, motion, or other paper with the court, the party must file the Confidential Information conditionally under seal. And, the party seeking to limit disclosure of the information must file a Motion to Seal.
On September 16, 2019, Defendant produced documents Bates Stamped COSTCO-DEVORAOOOOO1-000254 (“Subject Document”). The Subject Document includes: a daily floor walk/safety inspection sheet for the date on which Plaintiff’s accident occurred; witness statements pertaining to other incidents; photographs of other individuals or the area in which they slipped or fell; video surveillance pertaining to other incidents; and reports completed by Defendant’s members providing information relating to their incident.
The Subject Document was marked “Confidential” and “Subject to Protective Order.” On December 12, 2019, Plaintiff informed Defendant that she disagreed with such designation. Plaintiff requested that Defendant either remove the designation or file a motion pursuant to the Protective Order.
On January 17, 2020, Defendant filed its Motion to Deem Documents as Confidential (“Confidential Motion”). Defendant moves the court to deem the Subject Document as “Confidential.” Plaintiff opposes.
On July 21, 2020, Defendant filed it Motion to Seal Confidential and/or Proprietary Documents (“Seal Motion”). Defendant moves the court to seal the Subject Document. Plaintiff opposes.
1. Motion to Deem Documents as Confidential
Per the Protective Order, “Any document, including photographs, drawings, films, videotapes, or other writings, which contain proprietary information, confidential information, confidential business records, confidential personnel information, confidential technical and/or commercial information, commercially or competitively sensitive information, trade secrets, and/or any testimony from trials or depositions or affidavits not heretofore publicly disclosed, may be in good faith designated as confidential by the producing party and entitled to protection under the terms of this Order and all such documents designated as confidential, and copies thereof, shall be marked “Confidential” or “Subject to Confidentiality Order,” or words to that effect, and shall contain the name of the producing party and the style of the lawsuit.” (Ortega Decl., Exh. A, ¶ 1.)
Defendant moves to deem the Subject Document as “Confidential” on the following grounds: (1) There is no justification for why the Subject Document should be subject to public disclosure, outside of the Protective Order’s procedural safeguards. For example, the Subject Document is comprised of Defendant’s internal investigation of claims and contain private, personal information of Defendant and its members. Such information could be used by competitors, hurting Defendant’s business, or it could be used in other proceedings against Defendant; and (2) There is no prejudice to Plaintiff’ ability to litigate this matter. Plaintiff is able to freely use the Subject Document in advancing her claims against Defendant pursuant to the Protective Order’s procedures.
Plaintiff opposes on the following grounds: (1) Defendant failed to follow the Protective Order’s procedural requirements. The Protective Order requires that any party intending to use information designated as “Confidential” in any pleading, motion, or other paper with the court, must file the Confidential Information conditionally under seal. And, the party seeking to limit disclosure of the information must file a Motion to Seal. (Ortega Decl., Exh. A., ¶ 14.); (2) The Subject Document is not confidential. Most, if not all, of the pages fail to contain any trade secrets, competitively sensitive information, proprietary information, or any other type of protected information; and (3) Defendant heavily redacted 67 pages of the Subject Document, despite a Protective Order being in place. Plaintiff asks the court to order Defendant to de-designate the Subject Document marked “Confidential” and to produce 67 pages of the Subject Document without any redactions.
i. Defendant Followed the Protective Order’s Procedural Safeguards
Two of the Protective Order’s terms are pertinent to the court’s discussion:
“To the extent any receiving party disagrees with the designation of “Confidential” or “Subject to Confidentiality Order,” or words to that effect, the receiving party’s counsel shall advise the producing party’s counsel in writing. The parties agree to meet and confer regarding the disagreement in good faith. In the absence of an agreement, the producing party may apply to the Court to obtain a “Confidential” designation. It shall be the obligation of the producing party to file a motion and request a hearing within 40 days of receiving written notice from the receiving party, and the producing party shall have the burden to prove its claim that the information is entitled to protection…”
“In the event that any party intends to use information designated as “Confidential” in any pleading, motion, or other paper filed with the Court, the party shall file the Confidential Information conditionally under seal. The party seeking to limit the disclosure of the information shall be required to file a Motion to Seal following the procedures set forth in Cal. Rules of Court Rule 2.551.”
(Ortega Decl., Exh. A., ¶ 7, 14, respectively.)
Paragraph 14 of the Protective Order presumes that a document has already
been deemed “Confidential.” As such, per these terms, the first step is to
designate a document as “Confidential” under Paragraph 7. The second step is to file a motion to seal that document under Paragraph 14, if a party wants to use that document in a motion, pleading, or other paper with the court.
The parties disagreed as to whether the Subject Document should be designated as “Confidential.” So, per Paragraph 7 of the Protective Order, Defendant filed the Confidential Motion for the court to determine whether the Subject Document should be marked “Confidential.” The court finds this appropriate.
ii. The Subject Document is Confidential
In granting the Compel Motion, the court required that Defendant turn over records concerning the following: (1) slip-and-fall incidents of any variety (2) occurring within five years prior to the date of the incident (3) at the specific Costco warehouse store at issue and (4) within the store itself excluding certain areas. (Eftekar Decl., Exh. A.) The court entered a Protective Order for this information because Plaintiff’s discovery request sufficiently encompassed Defendant’s proprietary information. (Ibid.)
In response to the court granting the Compel Motion, Defendant produced the Subject Document and labeled it as “Confidential.” The court sees no reason to modify its finding that the discovery sought, the Subject Document, encompasses Defendant’s proprietary information. In ruling on the Compel Motion and Protective Order, the court previously analyzed and considered the parties’ arguments regarding the Subject Document’s confidentiality. Similarly, the court sees no reason why the Subject Document should not be marked “Confidential.” In support of its Confidential Motion, Defendant advances the declaration of general manager, Valery Vanguilder. She has worked at Defendant’s warehouse for 33 years. She discusses with adequate detail the ways in which the Subject Document contain confidential and/or proprietary information. For example, she discusses how the Subject Document contains Defendant’s policies and procedures regarding the daily floor walk/safety inspection and how making that information public could affect Defendant’s business. (Vanguilder Decl. ¶ 3.)
Accordingly, the Subject Document is deemed “Confidential.”
iii. Defendant is to Produce an Unredacted Copy of the Subject Document
The Protective Order protects the use of confidential information. For example, such information may only be used in this litigation and for no other purpose, and it may only be disclosed to certain individuals. (Ortega Decl., Exh. A, ¶¶ 5-6.) Thus, the court sees no reason for why Defendant should redact information. Any issues stemming from the unredacted Subject Document may be fixed later.
2. Motion to Seal Confidential and/or Proprietary Information
The sealing of court records is governed by California Rules of Court rules 2.550 and 2.551. (Mercury Interactive Corp. v. Klein (2007) 158 Cal.App.4th 60, 68.) The presumption of open access to court records does not apply to “records that are required to be kept confidential by law.” (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 2.550(a)(3).) A party seeking to seal a court record or seeking to file a record under seal must do so by motion or application supported by a declaration showing facts justifying the record’s sealing. (Id., rule 2.551(b)(1).)
California Rules of Court rule 2.550(d) states: “The court may order that a record be filed under seal only if it expressly finds facts that establish:
(1) There exists an overriding interest that overcomes the right of public access to the record;
(2) The overriding interest supports sealing the record;
(3) A substantial probability exists that the overriding interest will be prejudiced if the record is not sealed;
(4) The proposed sealing is narrowly tailored; and
(5) No less restrictive means exist to achieve the overriding interest.”
Defendant’s Seal Motion is denied.
First, the Subject Document was produced in discovery. “There is no right of public access to, and hence no need to seal, discovery materials exchanged between civil litigants…Nor do the sealing rules of court apply to discovery motions or materials filed or lodged with the court in connection with discovery motions or proceedings (e.g., confidential information material subject to a protective order.)” (Cal. Prac. Guide Civ. Pro. Before Trial Ch. 9(I)-I, Motion to Seal Court Records, citing Cal. Rules of Court, rule 2.550(a)(3) [rule on sealed records].) Defendant produced the Subject Document in response to the Compel Motion, and the Subject Document was lodged with the court in response to the Protective Order.
Second, neither party has attempted to use the Subject Document “as [a] basis for adjudication.” A motion to seal is only necessary when discovery materials, like the Subject Document, are “submitted as a basis for adjudication,” meaning that they are “submitted in support of and in opposition to substantive pretrial motions, regardless of the ground on which the trial court ultimately rules.” (Overstock.com, Inc. v. Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (2014) 231 Cal.App.4th 471, 497.) Neither party has filed or attempted to file the Subject Document “as a basis for adjudication.” Thus, the Seal Motion is premature.
Case Number: BC704678 Hearing Date: August 20, 2020 Dept: G
Rocio Devora vs Costco Wholesale CorporationBC704678Defendant's Ex Parte Application on calendar August 20, 2020 TENTATIVE Defendant's ex parte application for leave to file reply brief in excess of ten page limit and response to plaintiff's objection and motion is granted.
Case Number: BC704678 Hearing Date: July 23, 2020 Dept: SEC
DEVORA v. COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION
CASE NO.: BC704678
[Remote appearances are encouraged and will be given priority.]CALENDAR MATTER #2
I. Defendant COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION’s Motion to Deem Documents as Confidential Pursuant to Protective Order is CONTINUED to Thursday, September 24, 2020 at 2:30 p.m. in Dept. SE-C to be heard in conjunction with Defendant COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION’s Motion to Seal Confidential and/or Proprietary Documents Filed as Exhibit F to its Motion to Deem Documents Confidential Pursuant to Protective Order.
II. Defendant COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION’s Motion to Seal Confidential and/or Proprietary Documents Filed as Exhibit F to its Motion to Deem Documents Confidential Pursuant to Protective Order set for Tuesday, September 15, 2020 at 2:30 p.m. is ADVANCED to this date and CONTINUED to Thursday, September 24, 2020 at 2:30 p.m. in Dept. SE-C to be heard in conjunction with Defendant COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION’s Motion to Deem Documents as Confidential Pursuant to Protective Order.
Moving Party to give Notice.
Case Number: BC704678 Hearing Date: February 27, 2020 Dept: SEC
DEVORA v. COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION
CASE NO.: BC704678
TENTATIVE ORDER (***** AMENDED *****)
I. Defendant COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION’s Motion to Disqualify David C. Shay and Vaziri Law Group, APC is DENIED.
II. Defendant COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION’s Motion for Stay of All Proceedings Pending Ruling on Motion to Disqualify Plaintiff’s Counsel is MOOT.
Opposing Party to give notice.
Plaintiff’s untimely Request for Judicial Notice is DENIED.
A trial court’s authority to disqualify an attorney derives from the power inherent in every court “[t]o control in furtherance of justice, the conduct of its ministerial officers, and of all other persons in any manner connected with a judicial proceeding before it, in every matter pertaining thereto.” (People ex rel. Dept. of Corporations v. SpeeDee Oil Change Systems, Inc. (1999) 20 Cal.4th 1135, 1145.) “A motion to disqualify a party’s counsel may implicate several important interests. Consequently, judges must examine these motions carefully to ensure that literalism does not deny the parties substantial justice. Depending on the circumstances, a disqualification motion may involve such considerations as a client’s right to chosen counsel, an attorney’s interest in representing a client, the financial burden on a client to replace disqualified counsel, and the possibility that tactical abuse underlies the disqualification motion.” (River West, Inc. v. Nickel (1987) 188 Cal.App.3d 1297, 1144-1145.)
“When an attorney successively represents clients with adverse interests, the attorney has a potential conflict of interest.” (Meza v. H. Muehlstein & Co. (2009) 176 Cal.App.4th 969, 977.) “Where…the potential conflict arises from an attorney’s successive representation of clients with potentially adverse interests, and the primary value at stake is therefore client confidentiality, the correct legal standard generally requires disqualification of the attorney if ‘the [former] client demonstrate[s] a ‘substantial relationship’ between the subjects of the antecedent and current representations.’ [Citations.]” (In re Charlisse C. (2008) 45 Cal.4th 145, 161.)
It is the burden of the former client to show a substantial relationship between the former and current representations. (Id. at 166.) “To determine whether there is a substantial relationship between successive representations, a court must first determine whether the attorney had a direct professional relationship with the former client in which the attorney personally provided legal advice and services on a legal issue that is closely related to the legal issue in the present representation. [Citation.]” (City and County of San Francisco v. Cobra Solutions, Inc. (2006) 38 Cal.4th 839, 847.) If the relationship between the attorney and the former client is shown to have been direct—that is, where the lawyer is personally involved in providing legal advice and services to the former client—then it must be presumed that confidential information has passed to the attorney and there cannot be any delving into the specifics of the communications between the attorney and the former client in an effort to show that the attorney did or did not receive confidential information during the relationship. As a result, disqualification will depend upon the strength of the similarities between the legal problem involved in the former representation and the legal problem involved in the current representation. If the former client can demonstrate a substantial relationship between the subjects of the former and current representations, it is presumed that the attorney had access to confidential information in the first representation which is relevant to the second representation. (Flatt v. Superior Court (1994) 9 Cal.4th 275, 283.; See Kirk v. American Title (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 776, 796.)
Here, Defendant argues that David C. Shay and Vaziri Law Group, APC should be disqualified from representing Plaintiff in this action. Defendant specifically argues as follows: In 2017, Defendant’s Firm, Yukevich | Cavanaugh (“YC”) employed Federico Stea (“Stea”) as a law clerk, and then associate while Stea’s California bar exam results were pending. (Yukevich Decl., ¶6.) “While employed as an associate at [YC], Mr. Stea was assigned to the team of attorneys and paralegals handling the defense of Costco in at least twenty (20) different actions. Two of these cases, which Mr. Stea worked on, were filed by the Vaziri law firm” (Yukevich Decl., ¶8.) “During his work on the defense of Costco while employed by [YC], Mr. Stea learned confidential attorney-client information related to Costco’s defense in personal injury actions similar if not identical to this case.” (Yukevich Decl., ¶10.) On May 30, 2019, Stea’s employment with YC was terminated after he discovered that he failed to pass the July 2019 California Bar Exam. “On or about December 2, 2019 [Yukevich] learned that Mr. Stea had accepted employment with Mr. Shay’s practice group at Vaziri. [¶] Neither David Shay, nor the Vaziri law firm, nor Federico Stea ever requested that Costco consent to the conflict of interest created by their hiring of Mr. Stea, and Costco will not consent to or waive the conflict of interest.” (Yukevich Decl., ¶¶16-17.)
The Court notes that the subject action is not one of the cases identified as one that Stea had worked on while employed by YC. The Court further notes that Stea is not currently licensed to practice law in any jurisdiction. (See Opp. 1:20-28.)
In Opposition, Plaintiff maintains that disqualification is unnecessary because Plaintiff’s Firm, Vaziri Law Group, APC (“VLG”) expressly conditioned Stea’s employment on Stea’s understanding that he would not work on any “Costco” matters. Plaintiff also argues that disqualification is unnecessary because the two “Costco” matters that Stea worked on while employed by YC were resolved prior to his hire at VLG. Lastly, Plaintiff argues that disqualification is improper because VLG implemented a timely ethical screen barring Stea from any involvement in “Costco” matters.
Here, the Court finds that there is evidence of a substantial relationship between the subjects of the prior and current representations. The legal problems involved in the former representations and the legal problems involved in the current representation are substantially similar. VLG is a plaintiff’s firm that has sued Costco on behalf of different plaintiffs on matters concerning personal injury. YG has rendered legal services to Costco as defense counsel in a number of personal injury actions. VLG represented plaintiffs in at least two personal injury actions against Costco and YG while Stea was still employed by YG. It is undisputed that Stea rendered legal services to Defendant Costco on personal injury issues against other plaintiffs in some capacity while he was employed by YG. The Court can reasonably conclude that Stea acquired confidential information about Costco as a result of his previous representation that is relevant to the current representation. Moreover, Stea has intimate knowledge of YG’s litigation history, and history of dealing with litigation matters.
“Once the moving party in a motion for disqualification has established that an attorney is tainted with confidential information, a rebuttable presumption arises that the attorney shared that information with the attorney’s law firm. The burden then shifts to the challenged law firm to establish that the practical effect of formal screening has been achieved. The showing must satisfy the trial court that the [tainted attorney] has not had and will not have any involvement with the litigation, or any communication with attorneys or employees concerning the litigation, that would support a reasonable inference that the information has been used or disclosed.[Citation.]” (Kirk v. Fist American Title Ins. Co. (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 776, 809-810.) “The typical elements of an ethical wall are:  physical, geographic, and departmental separation of attorneys;  prohibitions against and sanctions for discussing confidential matters;  established rules and procedures preventing access to confidential information and files;  procedures preventing a disqualified attorney from sharing in the profits from the representation; and  continuing education in professional responsibility.” (Henrikson v. Great American Savings & Loan (1992) 11 Cal.App.4th 109, 116, fn. 6.)
Attorney Shay has submitted a declaration, which indicates that “VLG implemented intensive procedures for an ethical screen prior to Law Clerk Stea commencing work. For example, VLG created tailored email distribution lists that screened Law Clerk Stea from receiving any emails relating to Costco. All Costco files are stored by handling attorneys in locked file cabinets labeled “Costco—Subject to Ethical Screen—Restricted Access.” Law Clerk Stea does not have a key to those cabinets nor does he have any ability to access the files. All VLG employees, specifically including Law Clerk Stea and all attorneys and employees working on Costco cases, were informed of the screen and told that any violation of the screen could result in termination.” (Shay Decl., ¶5.) “Law Clerk Stea has not been asked to nor has he conveyed any ‘playbook’ or trial strategy used by either Costco or Yukevich. IN fact, the sum total of any discussion of Costco with Law Clerk Stea has been to (1) establish and maintain the screening procedures discussed above, and (2) provide a declaration to oppose Costco’s motions for disqualification.” (Shay Decl., ¶7.)
The Court finds, based on the evidence provided, that there is no adequate basis for Defendant to disqualify David C. Shay and the Vaziri Law Group, APC from representing Plaintiff in this action. David Shay’s declaration addresses all of the elements outlined in Kirk. There are mechanisms put in place to prevent Stea from divulging tainted information, or from coming into contact with any information concerning “Costco” matters. Moreover, Stea has also submitted a declaration attesting that he has not performed any work on any “Costco” matter and has not communicated case strategies to anyone at VLG since the commencement of his employment with VLG. (Stea Decl., ¶¶7-8.)