Thursday, May 14, 2009
In a 71 page decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of claims against a law firm that had been instituted by a defendant in a suit that the law firm had filed. The case had its genesis in a dispute between the owner of the Surfrider Beach Club in sea Bright and their across-the-street neighbor. The suit against the neighbor and her daughter was brought by a firm associate after reviewing a memo from a summer associate and conducting supplemental legal research. The complaint alleged defamation, tortious interference with economic opportunities and other causes of action. A jury verdict was returned against some defendants but reversed by the Appellate Division.
Here, the court notes that suits brought against counsel by opposing parties are disfavored: "Generally, there is a reluctance to permit a nonclient to sue an adversary's attorney because of the concerns that such lawsuits can chill the zealous advocacy an attorney owes his or her client." The court concluded that the record left no doubt that the client's disclosures to the lawyers were full and fair and that the opposing party could not demonstrate that the law firm actions were malicious or for an improper purpose. (Mike Frisch)