A. v. B.

158 N.J. 51, 726 A.2d 924 (1999)

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A. v. B.

New Jersey Supreme Court
158 N.J. 51, 726 A.2d 924 (1999)

A. v. B.

Facts

A husband (defendant) and wife hired law firm Hill Wallack (HW) for estate planning. They waived any conflict of interest arising from the joint representation, and the waiver stated that information provided by either spouse might become accessible to the other. HW drafted wills devising each spouse’s estate to the surviving spouse or, if the other spouse died, then to contingent beneficiaries, including descendants. Unbeknownst to the wife or HW, the husband had recently fathered a child with another woman (plaintiff). The woman coincidentally hired HW to pursue a paternity action against the husband. Because of a clerical error, HW was not initially aware of the conflict of interest. When the husband learned of HW’s representation of the woman, he hired another firm to represent him in the paternity action. After that firm alerted HW to HW’s conflict, HW withdrew from representing the woman. HW believed it was also ethically obligated to inform the wife of the existence of the husband’s child, as the planned wills created a possibility of her assets passing to the child. In the paternity action, the husband sought an order preventing HW from informing his wife about the child. The family court denied the request, but the appellate division reversed, imposing restraints on HW. HW appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Pollock, J.)

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