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Gilles v. Wiley, Malehorn & Sirota

The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey
783 A.2d 756 (2001)


Facts

Denise Gilles (plaintiff) received an injury that she believed was caused by medical malpractice. Gilles retained attorney Arthur Raynes of the law firm Wiley, Malehorn & Sirota (defendants) to represent her in a medical malpractice suit. Raynes represented Gilles in the matter for 21 months. Raynes was initially unable to obtain medical-expert testimony supporting the claim, and advised Gilles that they would be unable to proceed without such testimony. Based on Gilles’s continued interest in pursuing the suit, Raynes eventually obtained a supporting medical opinion. Gilles was delinquent in paying her fees to the law firm during this period, and Raynes notified Gilles that the firm would have to reconsider its representation if she failed to pay. Raynes paid some of the fees due, but six months after obtaining the supporting opinion, Raynes notified Gilles by mail that the firm was ending the relationship. The letter instructed Raynes to immediately seek another attorney due to the impending statute of limitations, but did not specify that the time remaining was only a few weeks. Gilles failed to find another attorney in time and the statute of limitations ran out, precluding her suit. Gilles then sued Raynes and the firm for legal malpractice, claiming termination of the representation without adequately protecting her interests. In his deposition, Raynes stated that the termination was mainly due to the probable unprofitability of the case. The lower court granted summary judgment to Raynes, dismissing Gilles’s claim. Gilles appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Pressler, J.)

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