Legal Memorandum: In-state Co-counsel's Liability in NJ

Issue: Do New Jersey court rules make in-state co-counsel automatically liable for the negligence of out-of-state counsel admitted pro hac vice?

Area of Law: Ethics & Professional Responsibility, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: In-state co-counsel; Out-of-state counsel; Liability for negligence
Jurisdiction: New Jersey
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: N.J. Ct. R. 1:21-2;
Date: 09/01/2004

The cases of Ingemi v. Pelino & Lentz, 866 F. Supp. 156 (D.N.J. 1994),and  Itel Containers International Corp. v. Puerto Rico Marine Management, Inc., 108 F.R.D. 96, (D.N.J. 1985), are sometimes cited for the proposition that tort liability necessarily attaches to in-state counsel of record for the acts of out-of-state counsel admitted pro hac vice.  Neither case, however, supports that proposition. 

In the case of Ingemi v. Pelino & Lentz, 866 F. Supp. 156, the plaintiff sued a Pennsylvania firm, Pelino & Lentz, P.C., and its New Jersey local counsel, Pelino & Lentz, for legal malpractice based on numerous misrepresentations by both counsel.  Pelino & Lentz contended that it merely served as local counsel, while principal counsel was the firm’s counterpart in Pennsylvania, Pelino & Lentz, P.C.  The Court found that the plaintiff was under the impression that Pelino & Lentz and Pelino & Lentz, P.C. were one and the same and that Pelino & Lentz was her counsel.  As a result, the Court found that “the facts of this case suggest that Pelino & Lentz [the local counsel] actively represented plaintiff.”  Id. at 160.  The District Court reasoned that Pelino & Lentz, P.C., and Pelino & Lentz shared attorneys, office space, and virtually the same name.  Id. at 161.  Both firms were primary counsel in the matter.  Id.  The court rule regarding the responsibilities of local counsel was not the predicate for a claim of legal malpractice.

Itel, 108 F.R.D. 96, was another District Court […]

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