Sunday, March 26, 2017
H. JAMES RIPPON VS. LEROY SMIGEL, ESQ., ET AL. A-2722-15T2
H. JAMES RIPPON VS. LEROY SMIGEL, ESQ., ET AL.
In this case, a Pennsylvania lawyer and his law firm represented plaintiff's spouse in a highly contentious divorce action in Pennsylvania. During that proceeding, the lawyer sent a letter to a New Jersey bank that plaintiff had contacted about obtaining a mortgage on a house he hoped to purchase in New Jersey. Among other things, the lawyer's letter intimated that plaintiff was improperly using marital funds to purchase the home. After the bank denied plaintiff a mortgage, he filed an action in New Jersey against his spouse, the lawyer, and his firm for defamation and tortious interference with contractual relations.
The trial court dismissed the New Jersey action, finding that it did not have jurisdiction over the lawyer and the law firm and that the complaint was barred on the basis of forum non conveniens and the doctrine of res judicata. In this opinion, the court remands the matter to the trial court to permit plaintiff to engage in discovery on the questions of jurisdiction and forum non conveniens. The court also concludes that plaintiff's complaint was not barred on res judicata grounds.