A former client of Fredrikson & Byron has won an appeal that revives a lawsuit claiming that it padded its fees in a construction dispute. 

The Minnesota Court of Appeals on December 24 reversed a lower court that granted summary judgment to the Minneapolis law firm in an action filed by developer Mark Saliterman. He claims the firm’s $2.6 million fee was unreasonably high due to excessive hourly charges and overstaffing.

Saliterman filed the action in 2010 after the firm sued him and his company for unpaid legal fees allegedly incurred in a dispute over the development of 66 condominiums in Stillwater, Minn.

The three-judge panel found that the engagement letter between the firm and Saliterman was vague as to whether he would be personally liable for the legal fees. The panel also determined that the lower court erred when it found that Saliterman’s lawsuit was a malpractice action, instead of a breach-of-contract action, and that he had failed to properly present an expert witness as required in a malpractice case.

The court remanded to the Hennepin County, Minn., District Court.

A spokeswoman for Fredrikson & Byron did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. Representing Saliterman was Paul Sortland, a solo practitioner in Minneapolis. He said that he expects the law firm to appeal the ruling.

Contact Leigh Jones at ljones@alm.com.