A Portland law firm has been found guilty of failing identify zoning regulations on Canby land before it was bought by an Oregon cannabis company.
Tidewater Investments, LLC, based in Lake Oswego, won a $7,000,000 jury verdict against Emerge Law Group, based in Portland, for legal malpractice. According to a Tidewater Press Release, the judge reduced this award to $4.9M based on his finding of comparative negligent, which is a legal term which indicates that there may be shared responsibility.
Bonnie Richardson, attorney at Tidewater, said, 'Our client relied on Emerge Law's team and the advice they provided, which cost them millions. Emerge Law has refused their responsibility. We are happy that the jury agreed and provided our clients with justice.
Business Journal research shows that Emerge Law Group has 14 attorneys in the metro area as of July 2021. According to its website, the firm has offices in New York and New Jersey, as well as California, along with its Portland headquarters.
Tidewater claims that it hired Emerge in 2014 for help with its cannabis business. This included purchasing land for an indoor cannabis cultivation centre. Tidewater stated that Emerge's attorneys were marketed as being 'instrumental in the measure which legalized recreational marijuana in Oregon'.
Tidewater stated that it contacted Emerge's lawyers in 2016 regarding a property in Canby. According to the company's attorneys, Emerge never raised any concerns about the property.
Tidewater, however, said that nearly a full year after purchasing the property, Emerge's lawyers discovered that the property was situated within a floodway controlled by FEMA, and Clackamas County designated it as a "Flood Hazard" zoning overlay. This made development of the land for indoor cultivation impractical.
Tidewater sued Emerge in 2019 and Corinne Celko who was the land use attorney for Emerge. She is now an investor of the firm.
Emerge expressed disappointment and disagreement with the verdict.
In a statement to The Business Journal, a spokesperson for the company said: "But this doesn't impact our work in serving our clients." "Our insurers are evaluating the next steps in relation to the litigation."
After a jury trial lasting two weeks, the verdict was announced.