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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Pause Button on Lawsuit Over Ambassador Bridge

(CN) - Because of litigation in Canada over plans for a public bridge that would compete with the privately owned Ambassador Bridge, a lawsuit in Washington cannot move forward, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

It has been over a decade since the companies that own the rights to collect tolls from the Ambassador, which connects Detroit, Mich., with Windsor, Ontario, asked the U.S. Coast Guard for permission to build a new span alongside the Ambassador.

Claiming that they want to temporarily shut down the structure for maintenance, Detroit International Bridge Co. (DIBC) and the Canadian Transit Co. (CTC) filed a request in 2004 for a navigational permit so that commuters could access a twin span during this construction.

Though the Ambassador is privately owned, the companies still need permission from the U.S. Coast Guard to build.

With the Coast Guard dragging its feet on that permit request, the Ambassador owners filed a 2010 federal complaint in Washington, D.C., against the U.S. and Canadian governments to have the courts hurry them along.

They filed an amended complaint in 2012, and CTC filed a separate action in Canada against that country's attorney general, when the Coast Guard seemed poised to approve a government-owned competing bridge, the New International Trade Crossing/Detroit River International Crossing. The bridge is described in the court record by the abbreviation NITC/DRIC and pronounced Nitsy-Drick.

After refusing to enjoin plans for the public bridge last year, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer stayed the Washington case Wednesday pending a determination by the Canadian courts of the scope of CTC's franchise rights.

Although the parties in each lawsuit are not identical, Collyer found that the cases are "substantially similar" because of subsidiary ownerships.

It is therefore possible that the holding in the Canadian lawsuit will have direct bearing on the U.S. companies, even though they are not directly listed as parties, once the parties petition a U.S. court to give full effect to that foreign judgment, the court found.

"Canada is an adequate forum to adjudicate claims involving issues of Canadian law," Collyer wrote. "Moreover, the 'adequacy of the Canadian courts . . . is beyond dispute' and a stay would 'promote judicial efficiency and avoid the risk of inconsistent declarations on the same issue of [DIBC's] rights under Canadian law."'

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