When an attorney engages in misconduct, a case can falter. When the misconduct is particularly egregious, a case can collapse, and Wade v. Soo Line Railroad is an extreme instance of this: a weak argument compounded and doomed by the reckless actions of a plaintiff's lawyer.
Michael Wade filed a routine workers' compensation suit in 2003 after he claimed to have injured his shoulder on the job when a hand brake malfunctioned, leading to a collision. Representing him was George Brugess, a Chicago-based attorney with Hoey & Farina who is experienced in railroad and Federal Employee Liability Act cases.
"The rules of conduct clearly and explicitly set forth--and every attorney is quite well aware--that they are not permitted to take a position directly adverse to their current client," says John Fabian, an associate with McDonald Hopkins in Cleveland. "It's hard to imagine many more situations more directly adverse than this."
Conflict of Interest
The 7th Circuit agreed. In oral arguments, Judge Frank Easterbrook interrupted Brugess to ask why he was still representing Wade.