A New Jersey Appellate Court has affirmed a jury verdict in favor of an attorney to recover legal fees from a former client, who had made a counterclaim alleging the the attorney committed malpractice. In Wallack v. Jordan, an attorney sued his former client to collect unpaid legal fees related to a divorce proceeding and a related domestic violence case. The client then filed a counterclaim that the attorney had unnecessarily prolonged the proceedings, which resulted in excessive fees. The two cases were consolidated upon consent of the parties and tried together.
The jury found in favor of the attorney in both matters and awarded him a judgment for the outstanding fees. The client appealed, alleging that the court had improperly admitted evidence about the client’s conduct during the divorce, including the allegations of domestic violence.
The appellate court upheld the jury verdict, finding that the trial court had not abused its discretion by admitting the evidence.. The court reasoned that the admitted evidence, referring to the domestic violence matter, was relevant to the reasonableness of the attorney’s fees. The court further explained that the trial court’s limiting instruction cured any potential misuse of the evidence by the jury and therefore the client had not been prejudiced.
Decision: Wallack v. Jordan