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Brian Gatens focuses his practice on professional liability, primarily defending lawyers; general liability; and medical malpractice. He has appeared in the Superior Court of New Jersey for motion practice and other matters and is practiced in evaluating and defending cases from inception to trial. Brian’s clients comprise well-respected attorneys, commercial properties, nurses and hospitals. He takes a practical, results-oriented approach, looking at issues from different angles to find innovative strategies.

163170179Would an architect by any other name smell as sweet? The answer is no when it comes to authoring an affidavit of merit in New Jersey. A recent case made clear that an affidavit from a professional licensed in a different field cannot support a professional liability claim, even if they have sufficient expertise in a related or overlapping area of expertise germane to the issue presented.

The New Jersey Legislature enacted the Affidavit of Merit Statute in 1995 to quell spurious litigation against licensed professionals. While the statute may have since achieved some of the desired effect, lawyers have been fighting over the statute’s reach and application since its enactment. Though the legislature probably never intended for the statute to become a subject of protracted litigation, there is a tangled nest of appellate opinions interpreting the statute from nearly every angle. That new law continues to be made, despite the language of the statute remaining essentially unchanged, shows that the statute still – almost 20 years later – breeds litigation uncertainty in very practical and impactful ways.

Continue Reading It Takes One to Confront One in a Professional Liability Claim

EthicsAs we are taught in law school, and as some members of the public find hard to believe, attorneys are held to the highest ethical standards. One of the surest ways for an attorney to secure his or her disbarment is to misappropriate funds. In a December 18, 2014 decision, however, the New Jersey Supreme Court drew a bright line between misappropriation of client funds held in trust and misappropriation of other types of funds – the former mandating disbarment and the latter providing for more flexibility in punishment. In Re Sigman, decided December 18, 2014.

While employed by a law firm in Pennsylvania as an associate, Scott P. Sigman, among other conceded wrongs, kept client fees for himself rather than sharing them with his employer firm as required by the terms of his employment. The Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board recommended a 30-month suspension for this and other violations of the disciplinary rules, and that discipline was subsequently imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Continue Reading No Attorney Disbarment In NJ for Misappropriation of Law Firm Funds