Ontario Superior Court disqualifies opposing law firm from acting in shareholder dispute

February 5, 2018

Andersson v. Aquino, 2018 ONSC 852

On February 5, 2018, Justice Ian Leach of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in London, Ontario granted an order disqualifying the counsel of record for the plaintiff from acting in a shareholder dispute due to conflicts of interest.

The decision is noteworthy because of the various conflicts examined:
1. The opposing law firm was representing both the company and one of the shareholders in the action.
2. Prior to the action, as corporate counsel, the law firm had drafted a number of documents relevant to the dispute and been active in the events leading up to the litigation. A lawyer and staff from the law firm would need to be called as witnesses.
3. A lawyer from the law firm purported to currently be one of two directors in the company.
4. The validity of the documents prepared by the law firm was at issue, which created a conflict as the company (if the documents were invalid) had an interest in having the documents declared invalid as soon as possible. However, the law firm had an interest in the documents being upheld.

In his decision, Justice Leach relied on and “notes up” his own 2013 decision Rice v. Smith which thoroughly reviews the law of conflict of interest.

John Downing and Jack Masterman of Miller Thomson acted for the successful defendant on this motion.