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Andrew Corp. v. Beverly Manufacturing Co.

415 F. Supp. 2d 919 (2006)

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Andrew Corp. v. Beverly Manufacturing Co.

United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

415 F. Supp. 2d 919 (2006)

Facts

Andrew Corporation (Andrew) (plaintiff) alleged that Beverly Manufacturing Company (Beverly) (defendant) had cable-hanger products that infringed on Andrew’s products. Lawyers Timothy Engling and Dennis McWilliams represented Beverly in this dispute, which was resolved without a lawsuit. Engling and McWilliams then joined the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg (the firm), where lawyers Daniel Albers and Thomas Donovan already worked and represented Andrew in some matters. Barnes & Thornburg checked for conflicts of interest at that time. However, due to the way a form was filled out, the firm missed the fact that new client Beverly and existing client Andrew had conflicting interests. The firm then represented both clients through the two separate sets of lawyers, who never discussed anything about the clients with each other. Beverly asked Engling and McWilliams for their opinion about a new dispute with Andrew, and the lawyers wrote three letters setting out why they believed Beverly was not infringing on Andrew’s patents. Beverly relied on these letters to continue its conduct, and Andrew sued Beverly. At that point, the firm realized that the conflict existed and declined to represent either client in the lawsuit. However, during the lawsuit, Beverly sought to introduce the opinion letters as evidence that it had believed that its conduct was legal and that any infringement was not willful. This evidence was significant because willful infringement could triple a damage award. Andrew claimed that the firm had breached its fiduciary duty to Andrew by drafting the letters against Andrew, its client, and moved to have the letters excluded. Beverly argued that it needed the evidence to explain its conduct and that it should not have to suffer because its lawyers breached their duties to a different client.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Holderman, J.)

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