The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT W. SWEET
Defendants the vessel M. V. TRADE RESOLVE (the "TRADE RESOLVE"), Transport Hellenic Inc., Marine Management Services M.C., Brokerage & Management Corp., Trade & Transport Inc. [Greece], Trade & Transport [U.K.] Ltd., and Trade Management Services, Inc. (collectively, the "TRADE RESOLVE Defendants" or "Movants") have moved for an order, pursuant to Canons 4, 5, and 9 of the New York Code of Professional Responsibility and the ethical jurisprudence of this Court and of the State of New York, disqualifying the law firms of Watson Farley & Williams ("WFW") and Hill Rivkins Loesberg O'Brien Mulroy & Hayden ("Hill Rivkins") from further representing the plaintiffs and claimants in certain actions pending before this court. For the following reasons, this motion is denied.
The parties, facts, and prior proceedings in this matter were fully discussed in a prior opinion of this Court, familiarity with which is assumed. See In re Complaint of Maritima Aragua, S.A., 823 F. Supp. 143 (S.D.N.Y. 1993). They will be described below only to the extent necessary to decide the present motion.
The law firm of WFW, with offices at 380 Madison Avenue, New York, New York, is part of a Jersey Island partnership ("WFW Jersey"). The partners of the affiliated firm of WFW, with offices at 15 Appold Street, London ("WFW UK") are also members of WFW Jersey, but the New York partners of WFW Jersey are not members of WFW UK. Hill Rivkins is a law firm with offices at 21 West Street in New York City.
Maritima Aragua S.A. ("Maritima"), a Venezuelan corporation is the owner and operator of the M/V MAR CORAL (the "MAR CORAL," and together with Maritima, the "MAR CORAL Plaintiffs"), a vessel registered in La Guaira, Venezuela.
Transport Hellenic, Inc., a Panamanian corporation with its principal place of business in Greece, is the registered owner of the TRADE RESOLVE, a vessel registered under the flag of Panama. The TRADE RESOLVE was managed and operated by Trade Management Services, Inc., a Panamanian holding corporation with its principal place of business in Greece, until December 11, 1991, when management of the TRADE RESOLVE was transferred to Marine Management Services M.C., Brokerage and Management Corp., a New York Corporation.
Allegations have been made that the TRADE RESOLVE Defendants are related through ownership by Gregory Callimanopulos ("Callimanopulos"), a well-known Greek shipowner.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
The underlying action in this matter involves the collision the MAR CORAL and the TRADE RESOLVE in Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela (the "Collision"). In addition to damage to the involved ships, the collision allegedly caused damage to a pipeline owned by Maraven S.A. ("Maraven").
In December 1991, the MAR CORAL Plaintiffs submitted a complaint for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability in this Court seeking limitation of liability arising from the collision (the "MAR CORAL Limitation Proceeding"). In January, 1992, the New York office of WFW Jersey, with the law firm of Liddel, Sapp, Zivley, Hill & LaBoon L.L.P. of counsel, filed an Answer and Claim in the MAR CORAL Limitation Proceeding on behalf of Bariven S.A., Maraven, Pequiven S.A., Lagoven S.A., Clover Systems, Inc. d/b/a Clover Systems Intermodal, Baroid Drilling Fluids, Inc., Varisure C.A., Inc., and FMC Wellhead de Venezuela (collectively, the "MAR CORAL Claimants").
On August 4, 1993, Hill Rivkins filed a complaint (the "TRADE RESOLVE Litigation") on behalf of Bariven Corp., Bariven S.A., Maraven, Lagoven S.A., and Pequiven S.A. (collectively, the "TRADE RESOLVE Plaintiffs") against the TRADE RESOLVE Defendants. The complaint submitted by Hill Rivkins in the TRADE RESOLVE Litigation contains four paragraphs drafted by WFW Jersey concerning Maraven's pipeline damage claim.
Several actions concerning the collision, including the MAR CORAL Limitation Proceeding and the TRADE RESOLVE Litigation ultimately were consolidated before this Court. The Court denied the TRADE RESOLVE Defendants' motions to dismiss for forum non conveniens and to stay discovery on May 25, 1993. See In re Complaint of Maritima Aragua S.A., 823 F. Supp. 143 (S.D.N.Y. 1993).
Argument was heard on the present motions on February 9, 1994. Additional submissions were received from the parties until February 23, 1994, on which date the ...