Judge Says New York Wrong Place for 'Big Dig' Lawsuit

, New York Law Journal

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Finding New York to be the wrong forum, a judge has dismissed a malpractice suit brought against Edwards Wildman Palmer relating to the 2006 ceiling collapse in a Boston tunnel.

In a Sept. 13, 2013 lawsuit, National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, an AIG affiliate, sought at least $10 million in damages and at least $10 million in punitive damages and other costs in National Union v. Edwards Wildman, 653188/2013, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.

National Union hired the 600-lawyer firm and Boston partner John Hughes to advise on whether it owed a defense and indemnity to one of its insureds, which was facing multiple claims arising out of its work on the tunnel. Ceiling tiles in the tunnel, part of the so-called Big Dig construction project, collapsed in 2006, killing a woman in a car.

National Union claimed that two weeks before trial, the firm admitted that National's adversary was a firm client and the conflict led to the firm withdrawing.

Acting Justice Lawrence Marks granted the law firm's dismissal motion on the grounds of New York being an inconvenient forum. Marks said the number and weight of the factors in the suit center in Massachusetts.

"Plaintiff complains in large, if not in whole part, of the conduct of Massachusetts attorneys in relation to Massachusetts litigation involving a dispute with a Massachusetts insured over a claim arising from insurance policy covering a Massachusetts risk," Marks told attorneys at a hearing (See Transcript).

The insurer's attorney, Atlanta-based Nicholas Panayotopoulos of Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial, declined to comment on the ruling and whether the suit will be refiled in Massachusetts.

Denis King, a partner at Goulston & Storrs represented Edwards Wildman.

"We are gratified that the New York court agreed with us that this case belongs in Massachusetts, not New York," the firm said in a statement. "If the claims are refiled in Massachusetts, we look forward to defending them successfully there, because Massachusetts is home to all the relevant facts and controlling law."

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