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Maritrans GP, Inc. v. Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
602 A.2d 1277 (1992)


Facts

Maritrans (plaintiff) was a marine-transportation company based in Philadelphia. The law firm of Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz (Pepper) (defendant), with Anthony Messina (defendant) as primary attorney, had represented Maritrans in both labor relations and corporate matters for over a decade. Messina and other Pepper attorneys became intimately familiar with all of Maritrans’s operations, including Maritrans’s business plans for dealing with its competitors. Pepper and Messina subsequently approached and began to represent those same competitors. When Maritrans objected to this conduct, Pepper and Messina argued that their actions did not constitute a legal conflict, but were merely a business conflict. Pepper proposed to continue its representation of those competitors it already represented but promised to not represent any additional competitors. Despite Maritrans’s reluctant agreement to this plan, Pepper soon thereafter made arrangements for those additional competitors to be represented by an attorney at another firm. This attorney, however, was in negotiations with Pepper to join the firm as a partner. Maritrans continued to disclose information about its plans for dealing with these competitors with its Pepper attorneys, unaware of Pepper’s continued pursuit of Maritrans’s remaining competitors. Pepper eventually terminated its representation of Maritrans. The other outside attorney joined Pepper as a partner and brought Maritrans’s remaining competitors with him to Pepper as clients. Maritrans filed a complaint against Pepper and Messina. The trial court imposed a preliminary injunction prohibiting Pepper and Messina from representing Maritrans’s competitors. Pepper and Messina appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Papadakos, J.)

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