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Hoek v. McKesson Corp.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

August 2, 2019

HILDA VAN HOEK, Plaintiff,
v.
MCKESSON CORPORATION; PSS WORLD MEDICAL, INC.; MCKESSON MEDICAL-SURGICAL INC.; and MCKESSON MEDICAL-SURGICAL TOP HOLDINGS INC., Defendants.

          ORDER

          AMANDA ARNOLD SANSONE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Hilda van Hoek and Defendants McKesson Corporation, PSS World Medical, Inc., McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc., and McKesson Medical-Surgical Top Holdings, Inc. (collectively, the defendants), appeared for a hearing on van Hoek's motion to disqualify the defendants' counsel (Doc. 95) on July 25, 2019. (Doc. 102). For the reasons stated below and on the record at the hearing, van Hoek's motion to disqualify counsel is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Van Hoek originally filed this action in state court. (Doc. 1, Ex. A). On October 18, 2017, the defendants removed the action to this court. (Doc. 1). Attorneys Gregory Hearing and Sacha Dyson appeared on behalf of the defendants. (Id.). Until April 28, 2019, Hearing and Dyson were members of the law firm Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing, P.A. (TSG&H). (Doc. 99, Ex. A).

         In 2009 and 2010, attorney Sandra Sheets, with the law firm GrayRobinson P.A., represented van Hoek and her husband in estate planning matters. (Doc. 95-1, p. 1). On January 19, 2010, Sheets mailed van Hoek her completed estate planning documents. (Doc. 95-1, Ex. A). Sheets attached a cover letter that ended with, “It was a pleasure working with you in this matter. If we can be of any help in the future, please let us know.” (Id.).

         In 2014, attorney Sheets provided legal services to a relative of van Hoek. (Doc. 95-1, p. 2). It appears Sheets represented the relative in the financial matter and not van Hoek, but the bill for services was sent to van Hoek.

         On April 29, 2019, TSG&H merged with GrayRobinson. (Doc. 99, Ex. A). Because of the merger, Hearing and Dyson became employees of GrayRobinson.

         In June 2019, van Hoek sought to update her and her husband's wills. (Doc. 95-1, p. 2). On June 4, 2019, van Hoek contacted Sheets for assistance. (Id.). Sheets performed a conflict check, which listed van Hoek as an adverse party in this action. (Doc. 95-1, Ex. E). Sheets asked whether van Hoek would sign a conflict of interest waiver. (Id.). Van Hoek declined to sign the waiver and Sheets performed no legal work on van Hoek's behalf. (Doc. 95-1, p. 2).

         Van Hoek requests the court disqualify attorneys Dyson, Hearing, and the law firm GrayRobinson from representing the defendants in this action. (Doc. 95). The defendants oppose van Hoek's request. (Doc. 99). On July 26, 2019, the court held a hearing on van Hoek's motion to disqualify counsel for the defendants and orally denied the motion. (Doc. 102). The court explained its ruling on the record at the hearing and it is supported by this order.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Motions to disqualify opposing counsel are “generally viewed with skepticism because...[they] are often interposed for tactical purposes.” Yang Enter., Inc. v. Georgalis, 988 So.2d 1180, 1183 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008). The burden of proof is on the party moving for disqualification. Id.

         “‘Because a party is presumptively entitled to the counsel of his choice, that right may be overridden only if ‘compelling reasons' exist.'” In re: BellSouth Corp., 334 F.3d 941, 961 (11th Cir. 2003). “Disqualification of a party's chosen attorney is an extraordinary remedy that should be resorted to only sparingly. . ..” Steinberg v. Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., 121 So.3d 622, 624 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013).

         “An order disqualifying counsel ‘must be tested against standards imposed by [the] Rules of Professional Conduct.'”[1] AlliedSignal Recovery Trust v. AlliedSignal, Inc., 934 So.2d 675, 678 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006). Van Hoek contends Hearing, Dyson, and GrayRobinson's representation of the defendants is prohibited by Florida Bar Rules of Professional Conduct 4-1.7, 4-1.9, and 4-1.0(a).

         A. Florida Bar Rule of ...


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