Newark Team Secures Appellate Victory in Legal Malpractice Suit
Newark, N.J. (June 16, 2021) - Newark Partners Meredith Kaplan Stoma and Jeffrey Leonard recently secured an appellate victory when a New Jersey state appeals court upheld the dismissal of a legal malpractice suit against Lewis Brisbois’ client.
In the underlying case, described in the Law360 article titled “NJ Attorney Beats Malpractice Suit Over Handling Of Will,” the plaintiff attempted to invalidate his father’s will in probate and ultimately reached a settlement in the matter. The settlement agreement dismissed the probate litigation and released all attorneys for the parties from any claims pertaining to the probate case. However, the plaintiff then filed a malpractice action against Lewis Brisbois’ attorney client, alleging that the attorney mishandled his father’s will, and that the attorney knew or should have known that his father lacked testamentary capacity.
Lewis Brisbois filed a motion to dismiss the malpractice action based on the entire controversy doctrine (ECD), which requires litigants in New Jersey to bring claims related to the same facts in a single suit. The trial court granted Lewis Brisbois’ motion and denied the plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration, agreeing with Lewis Brisbois’ ECD argument. The plaintiff then appealed.
On appeal, the appellate court upheld the dismissal of the malpractice action on the basis that the plaintiff failed to name Lewis Brisbois’ client in the probate litigation. The court further reasoned that the plaintiff raised the same contentions in both the probate and malpractice cases, and that the claims arose from the same set of facts.
Ms. Stoma serves as vice-chair of Lewis Brisbois’ Legal Malpractice and Professional Liability Practices. She has substantial and wide-ranging experience in defending all types of professionals – including attorneys, accountants, architects, engineers, insurance producers and real estate agents and brokers – in professional malpractice actions through all phases of litigation in New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area.
Mr. Leonard is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ Professional Liability Practice. He represents clients in complex commercial, employment, personal injury, and professional liability matters, defending them in the state and federal courts of New Jersey and New York.