DP Pham v. Cheadle

Appellant C. Tucker Cheadle, as administrator of the estate of Robert F. Obarr, appealed an order denying his motion to disqualify counsel for respondent DP Pham LLC. Pham made three loans to Obarr totaling nearly $3 million, and Obarr secured each loan by granting Pham a lien on a mobilehome park he owned in Westminster (Property). This action arose when Obarr allegedly agreed to sell the Property to two different buyers. In March 2013, Obarr allegedly contracted to sell the Property to S.C.D. Enterprises (SCD). SCD promptly assigned the purchase agreement to Westminster MHP Associates, LP (Westminster), which allegedly opened escrow on the Property with Obarr. According to Westminster, it satisfied all contingencies for the sale within 10 days of opening escrow. In April 2013, Westminster filed suit alleging contract claims against Obarr. Obarr died unexpectedly in August. The trial court appointed Cheadle as a special administrator for Obarr’s estate and in that capacity substituted Cheadle for Obarr as a party to this action. Cheadle then filed a cross-complaint alleging an interpleader claim against both Westminster and Pham concerning the Property. Based on Pham’s loans to Obarr, Cheadle also alleged claims against Pham for usury, intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, money had and received, unjust enrichment, reformation, and violation of the unfair competition law. Cheadle contended disqualification was required because Pham’s counsel improperly obtained copies of privileged communications between Obarr and his attorney, and used those communications to oppose another party’s summary judgment motion in this case. The trial court denied the disqualification motion because it concluded the communications were not privileged. The Court of Appeal reversed. After reviewing copies of the communications, the trial court concluded they were not privileged based on their content. "A court, however, may not review the contents of a communication to determine whether the attorney-client privilege protects that communication. The attorney-client privilege is an absolute privilege that prevents disclosure, no matter how necessary or relevant to the lawsuit. The privilege attaches to all confidential communications between an attorney and a client regardless of whether the information communicated is in fact privileged. Accordingly, it is neither necessary nor appropriate to review a communication to determine whether the attorney-client privilege protects it." View "DP Pham v. Cheadle" on Justia Law