New York Personal Injury Law Blog » Attorney Ethics, Personal Injury, Slip and Fall


February 15th, 2007

Slip and Fall — Attorney Disqualified From Representing Wife

A Nassau County slip and fall case ran aground when the laywer-husband of the injuried plaintiff was found to be in violation of an ethical rule. The accident occurred in the parking lot of a restaurant. The husband had a loss of consortium claim and appeared pro se, and also sought to represent his wife.

It seems, however, that he was not only the husband but also a witness to the accident. While he could represent himself pro se, he could not represent his wife since that violates the lawyer-witness rule, DR 5-102 1:

A lawyer shall not act, or accept employment that contemplates the lawyer’s acting, as an advocate on issues of fact before any tribunal if the lawyer knows or it is obvious that the lawyer ought to be called as a witness on a significant issue on behalf of the client.

The attorney tried to get around this by saying that he was not employed as the attorney of record for his wife, that his wife was also pro se, and that he had a power of attorney to appear at conferences for her. The court rejected this rather creative argument.

A nice exposition on the law by Justice Lamarca in Nassau. The case is Smolensky v. T.G.I. Fridays.

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