Rivkin Secures Pre-Answer Dismissal of Multi-Count Complaint against Law Firm Client

June 1, 2023 | Professional Liability

Debbie Isaacson and Ana Parikh successfully moved to dismiss an action in Superior Court of New Jersey, Somerset County, against the firm’s client, a civil litigation law firm.

The firm’s client represented a condominium association from 2011 until approximately 2017. Plaintiff, a pro se litigant, filed a lawsuit against the Association, its Board of Trustees, its management company, the firm’s client as counsel to the association and several direct parties asserting 23 different claims, 14 of which were against the firm’s client, in a 700-plus page complaint. Plaintiff’s claims against the firm’s client ranged from breach of fiduciary duty to harassment to violations of the New Jersey Constitution.

The Court, in a 35-page opinion, granted our motion to dismiss all 14 claims against the firm’s client with prejudice. Isaacson and Parikh successfully argued that plaintiff failed to assert factual allegations to support his claims and that some of his claims were not supported under proper theories of law and/or were time-barred.

As to the breach of fiduciary duty claim, the court held that plaintiff failed to identify a fiduciary duty the firm’s client owed to plaintiff, did not plead facts as to an agreement stating that the firm’s client agreed to provide him legal services and did not plead facts that his alleged damages were caused by the alleged breach of fiduciary duty. Further, the court agreed with our argument that while the firm’s client may have had a fiduciary duty to the association, it did not extend to plaintiff.

The court dismissed the fraudulent concealment claim, agreeing with our arguments that plaintiff failed to plead factual allegations to support the claim or that the firm’s client had any legal obligation to disclose the association’s documents to plaintiff. The court also found a lack of facts to support plaintiff’s claims for civil conspiracy and malicious abuse of process. Likewise, the court adopted our arguments in dismissing the intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress claims, finding plaintiff failed to plead facts to support either claim. The court dismissed the harassment claim for similar reasons. The court dismissed the Consumer Fraud Act claim due to the learned profession exception precluding liability against lawyers and for failing to plead the claim with the required specificity. The claim for violation of the New Jersey State Constitution was also dismissed because plaintiff failed to plead facts that the firm’s client was acting under color of state law. Finally, the court also agreed that the fraudulent concealment, negligent misrepresentation, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and malicious prosecution claims were time-barred and should be dismissed on those grounds as well.

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