Most people have heard or had experience with an attorney who’s behaviors were, one could say, questionable. What most have not considered is what implications an attorney’s unethical or questionable behaviors could have on them.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has provided some guidance on this very topic in the recent decision of Brundage v. Estate of Carl V. Carambio. Carol Brundage hired her attorney to represent her in her claim for palimony against the estate of her deceased paramour. She probably had very little knowledge of what other matters her attorney was handling in his office. Little did she know that her attorney, just months before beginning his representation of Carol Brundage, represented another woman, Jeanette Levine, in a different county, but also for a claim of palimony. Carol Brundage also is likely not to have known that in Ms. Levine’s case, the trial court determined that she would not succeed on her claim for palimony because cohabitation was an essentail element for success on a palimony claim, and those parties had not lived together. Her attorney filed an appeal raising the question of whether cohabitation is an indispensible element of a cause of action for palimony. (Click here for Eric Solotoff’s blog entry above on the recent Supreme Court decision in that regard). Carol Brundage never lived with her now deceased paramour.
Her attorney went on to represent Carol Brundage with his appeal on the Levine matter pending. The Estate filed an application to dismiss Ms. Brundage’s Complaint claiming that cohabitation was an essential element. In his representation of Ms. Brundage, her attorney convinced the trial court that cohabitation was not essential and thus the Estate’s application was denied. In his argument, her attorney failed to mention his experience with the trial court in Ms. Levine’s case nor did he mention that the issue was pending on appeal.
The Estate then filed a motion for leave to appeal with the Appellate Division. In opposing that motion, the attorney did not disclose the contrary conclusion reached by the trial court in Ms. Levine’s matter or the fact that an appeal was pending. The Appellate Division denied the Estate’s motion and eventually the parties’ settled.