Monday, March 11, 2013

No Tortious Interference Claim By Discharged Attorney Against Successor Counsel

The New Jersey Supreme Court has held that a discharged attorney in a medical malpractice case had failed to state a claim against successor counsel for tortious interference with an attorney-client relationship.

The court recognized that competition for clients "must be conducted in adherence to the Rules of Professional Responsibility and the means used to induce a client may be neither improper or wrongful." However, a client may terminate the relationship at any time.


... the complainant's assertions that the client failed to appear for a meeting, discharged her attorney, asked that her file be transferred, and directed the former lawyer not contact her, fell well short of identifying the sort of wrongful means that would give rise to a cognizable claim for tortious interference.

The court found that discovery was not appropriate and that

Dismissal with prejudice was entirely appropriate lest plaintiff's former client and her newly - chosen attorney be subjected to a mere fishing expedition, a remedy that would raise the specter of chilling any client's exercise of free choice to select counsel.

The tort must be specifically pleaded. (Mike Frisch)

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