CINCINNATI (CN) – A law firm that simultaneously represented a company that wanted to build a second span to Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge, and a company that opposed the expansion, is not off the hook from a legal malpractice claim, the 6th Circuit ruled.
The appeals court revived a lawsuit brought by Detroit International Bridge and parent company CenTra Inc., which wanted to add the second span to its bridge connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. Windsor sought to stop the expansion. Both sides hired the firm Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP to represent them in the bridge dispute.
“Although CenTra wanted to expand its connection to Windor,” Judge Moore wrote, “it was hoping to do so with an additional bridge, not by sharing legal counsel.”
CenTra sued the firm for damages, claiming breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties and legal malpractice.
The district court dismissed the suit on the basis that CenTra “impliedly consented” to any conflict of interest, because CenTra was aware that the firm had previously represented parties, including Windsor, that were adverse to CenTra in cases where Gowling was not representing CenTra.
Moore said the lower court erred in granting summary judgment to the firm, because CenTra had not only established a genuine dispute over whether it implicitly consented, but it also raised doubts about whether it could even consent to the conflict of interest in the first place.