the law of the l awyer by John B Spitzer TORTIOUS INTERFERENCE WITH by morgossi7a2


                               of the
                               l awyer
by John B. Spitzer

TORTIOUS INTERFERENCE WITH                                           were to settle directly with the defendants with-
ATTORNEY-CLIENT RETAINER AGREEMENT                                   out Marks’s involvement. The defendants and
    What facts must an attorney allege when                          Rinaldi later settled without Marks’s “involve-
suing for tortious interference with an attorney-                    ment, knowledge, or consent.” The settlement
client retainer contract? An attorney for Robert                     was reflected in a settlement agreement that
Rinaldi, a franchised Snap-on Tools dealer,                          Rinaldi signed with Snap-on Tools.
recently claimed that Snap-on Tools Company,                            After that settlement, Marks filed a com-
LLC tortiously interfered with the attorney-                         plaint in New Jersey Superior Court, alleging
client relationship. But the court dismissed the                     that Snap-on Tools and its employees tortiously
complaint for failure to state a claim because the                   interfered with his retainer agreement with
attorney failed to allege specifically what                          Rinaldi. Snap-on Tools removed the suit to fed-
improper defendant conduct induced Rinaldi to                        eral court and moved to dismiss the complaint
bypass his attorney when settling his claims                         for failure to state a claim.
against Snap-on Tools. Marks v. Struble, 2004 U.S.                      Marks then filed an amended complaint
Dist. LEXIS 24402 (D. N.J. November 18, 2004).                       asserting a tortious interference claim against
   Rinaldi was a franchised Snap-on Tools                            attorneys for Snap-on Tools. Marks alleged that
dealer for New York State who was having diffi-                      two Snap-On Tools attorneys “advised [Stanley
culties with his franchisor. Seeking to recover                      Struble , a Regional Manager] to tortiously inter-
money owed him, Rinaldi entered into a partial                       fere and either one or both [of the attorneys] pre-
contingency fee agreement with Gerald A.                             pared the settlement agreement that Rinaldi
Marks. The agreement called for Marks to repre-                      signed.”
sent Rinaldi in connection with his dispute with                        In deciding whether Marks’s complaint was
Snap-on Tools. The Retainer Agreement specifi-                       sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss, the
cally provided that:                                                 court noted that the plaintiff must allege that
• Rinaldi pay Marks a partial contingency fee                        the third-party interference with contract was
of one-third of the gross amount Rinaldi recov-                      wrongful. Further, the wrongful misconduct
ered; and                                                            must involve fraudulent misrepresentations,
• Rinaldi pay Marks a nonrefundable retainer                         threats, or other unfair, unlawful conduct.
of $3,500 upon signing the Agreement.                                   The court found that the complaint specifi-
   The Retainer Agreement was silent on issues                       cally alleged that:
concerning the termination of the lawyer-client
relationship or what would happen if Rinaldi                                                         (Continued on page 50)

John B. Spitzer is an Assistant Director in ALI-ABA’s Office of Electronic and Print Publications.


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