Caspian Construction lawyer seeks to strike portions of City of Winnipeg lawsuit
WINNIPEG -- The lawyer for Caspian Construction is asking a judge to strike portions of a City of Winnipeg lawsuit against the company and several other defendants, arguing the allegations of fraud and conspiracy are too vague because they don’t specifically detail what role each defendant is alleged to have played over a five-year period.
“The sheer scope of this claim demands particularity,” Caspian lawyer Jeff Baigrie told court Monday morning, during a hearing on the matter. “Each individual is entitled to know each of the specific material facts alleged against that individual. They’re entitled to know individually the case they have to meet.”
The case being heard by Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal stems from a lawsuit filed by the city in January over the downtown police headquarters project.
The city alleges it suffered financial losses because the defendants — including Caspian Construction, former Winnipeg CAO Phil Sheegl and several others — conspired with each other to obtain a secret profit for their own benefit.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The lawsuit was launched weeks after prosecutors announced no criminal charges would be laid in connection to the project.
Twenty-seven people and entities are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Twelve other defendants listed in the lawsuit haven’t been identified.
Baigrie pointed out in court the city’s statement of claim alleges conspiracy and fraud over a five-year period.
“We say that the fraud misrepresentation claims improperly collectivize and lump defendants into groups, notwithstanding that we are dealing with separate distinct persons and corporate entities, as such that they are not able to ascertain exactly what each allegation is against each of them individually,” Baigrie told court.
He argued the city should have to provide more specific examples of alleged fraudulent activity to back up its claim.
“We’re talking about, according to the city, hundreds if not thousands of invoices that were supposedly fraudulent,” Baigrie argued. “Okay, city. Put up. Tell us about the hundreds if not thousands. Show us 50 examples.”
“Stay this proceeding, file a proper statement of claim and put the case on proper footing.”
On the argument for more specific examples of the allegations, the city’s lawyer Michael Finlayson told court the city can’t be asked to give something it doesn't have, adding an amended statement of claim it introduced will allow each of the defendants to plead to the allegations.
“We don’t know who did what or when it was done or whose idea it was,” Finlayson told court. “We just know all of these people, who we say are the contractors or principal’s of them, they were involved.”
Sheegl’s lawyer Robert Tapper agreed with Caspian’s lawyer but told court the claim against Sheegl should be struck in its entirety. If not, he asked Joyal to consider hearing the allegations against Sheegl as a separate matter because they’re not the same as the allegations against Caspian
“He didn’t pick up a hammer. He didn’t pick up a two-by-four,” Tapper told Joyal. “The collectivization and lumping is particularly offensive to my client.”
Tapper argued the lawsuit is about contractual performance and that has nothing to do with Sheegl.
“The only allegation of fact against my client is that he put out a contract for a bribe,” Tapper told court. “He had nothing to do with the performance of the contract.”
Joyal is expected make rulings Tuesday when the hearing continues.