COMMENTARY ON LAWYERING, LANGUAGE, AND POLITICS
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Law Firm That Enabled Child Snatch Liable for Father's Emotional Distress | New Jersey Law Journal
A New Jersey appellate court has found that aggravated circumstances permit the recovery of emotional distress damages in a legal malpractice case. The defendant lawyer turned over a child's passport to the mother in violation of a parenting agreement between mother and father. The child has been separated from her father for ten years, living in Spain with her maternal grandparents who echo the mother's unsubstantiated accusations of child abuse. The mother is serving a fourteen year sentence for child abduction. A jury awarded the father nearly $1 million in emotional distress damages. The Appellate Division upheld the award to the father. Disclosure: I testified that the defendant lawyer breached her fiduciary duty as custodian to a non-client, the plaintiff father. - gwc Law Firm That Enabled Child Snatch Wins Partial Relief From Damages | New Jersey Law Journal: by Mary Pat Gallagher
A New Jersey matrimonial lawyer and her firm hit with a $1.4 million malpractice judgment for their role in enabling an international child abduction have prevailed in lowering the damages assessed against them, though the bulk of the judgment remain intact.
A state appeals court on Monday chopped $442,000 from the judgment against Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich and her Hackensack firm, Lesnevich & Marzano-Lesnevich, who a jury found gave a client her daughter’s passport, which had been entrusted to them to prevent the girl’s removal from the U.S.
The panel, in Innes v. Marzano-Lesnevich, reversed the portion of the judgment awarded to the girl, finding no evidence she suffered emotional distress from the abduction.
But the judges left in place the nearly $1 million award for the father, Peter Innes, finding emotional distress caused by separation from his daughter even in the absence of physical injury.
Victoria Solenne Innes was four years old in January 2005 when her mother, Maria Carrascosa, took her to Spain, where she has resided since with her maternal grandparents.
The duty to safeguard Victoria’s passport was based on a parenting agreement signed in October 2004, when West Caldwell solo Mitchell Liebowitz was Carrascosa’s lawyer. Peter Van Aulen of Saddle Brook, represented Innes.
The agreement forbade either parent from traveling outside the U.S. with Victoria absent the other parent’s written consent and “to that end,” Liebowitz was to hold the girl’s passport in trust.
On Nov. 23, 2004, Sarah Jacobs an associate of Marzano-Lesnevich, informed Liebowitz the firm had been retained and asked for the file.
Liebowitz’s response was: “As you may know, I am holding her daughter’s United States Passport. I would prefer if you arranged for the original file to be picked up by messenger with the messenger acknowledging receipt of the passport.”