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Koch Shipping Inc v Richards Butler, Court of Appeal

30 August 2002
The issues

Confidentiality – A Solicitor moving firms during litigation.

The facts

Jane Peaston had been a Partner in Jackson Parton who acted for Koch Shipping. She had handled a lengthy arbitration case for them. She left Jackson Parton and joined Richards Butler. They were instructed on the other side in the same arbitration. She joined them as a Consultant in their Shipping Department. She offered an undertaking to her previous firm not to discuss the case or communicate with the arbitration case handlers at Richards Butler, but refused to agree to an undertaking to work at home or somewhere other than the London Office. The Judge on the Application of Koch, ordered Richards Butler to be restrained from continuing to act for its client in the arbitration on the ground that there was a risk of inadvertent disclosure by Jane Peaston of confidential information.

The decision

1. Miss Peaston was a conscientious Solicitor of integrity. The Judge at first instance had found little danger of Koch’s information being disclosed and described the risk as “slight”, but following Young -v- Rhodes, he found that he could not dismiss the risk as fanciful and therefore made the Order he did.

2. However, the suggestions made by Counsel supporting the Judge’s Order were fanciful. It was far-fetched to suppose she might inadvertently disclose confidential information. The Injunction would be lifted.

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