Zweibel v. Guttman
Defendants Guttman and Williamsburg Leasing appealed from a denial to set aside a verdict in this personal injury action arising from a single-vehicle accident. The issue on appeal was if the Civil Court improvidently exercised its discretion in requiring the three defendants, including Chase Manhattan Auto Finance, to designate a single attorney to represent them during the damages phase of trial. The unanimous panel concluded the court's decision constituted an improvident exercise of its discretion, ruling same deprived defendants of a fair trial. It stated the court directive resulted in Chase's counsel representing all three defendants at trial in which the one attorney represented the divergent interests of defendants, thereby depriving defendants of a fair trial. The panel noted while Chase had an incentive to limit the amount of damages, that incentive was far less than that of its codefendants as it had a counterclaim of indemnity against plaintiff Zweibel, and a claim for common-law indemnity against codefendant Guttman. Therefore, the panel concluded reversal was required finding there was no real incentive for Chase's attorney to vigorously represent codefendants' interests.