02 July 2013

Covington kicked off 3M lawsuit

A dispute over a conflict of interest in a high-profile lawsuit against 3M has resulted in Washington DC-based law firm Covington & Burling being disqualified from representing the state.

By Charlotte Mullen

3M: manufacturers of Post-it products

The ruling in Minnesota delays the state's lawsuit against 3M regarding accusations that the PFCs - or perfluorochemicals - are harmfully contaminating the environment. According to the Star Tribune, 3M, however, is disputing claims that PFCs are hazardous in any way.

Conflict of interest

A three-judge panel ruled that Covington & Burling was disqualified due to a conflict of interest -  after the firm effectively switched sides to prepare a lawsuit against 3M on the same issues surrounding the PFC accusations. Additionally, the court considered accusations that the law firm failed to notify the company or ask for its consent when it  took the state's case in late 2010. 3M also claimed it was likely that Covington's lawyers had acquired information from inside the company whilst representing it which could be used against the company in the state's lawsuit.  Covington had represented the state on earlier matters while working for 3M, but the judges ruled that the current situation was different as it was a lawsuit adverse to 3M's interests.  The law firm  has so far declined to comment on the matter whilst the state can either appeal the ruling, find a new law firm or represent itself.

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