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Roberts, Walsh & Co. v. Trugman

Decided: April 13, 1970.

ROBERTS, WALSH & COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JACK TRUGMAN, CLARA LOEB AND WILLIAM LOEB, DEFENDANTS



Yanoff, J.d.c.

Yanoff

This is an action brought by a court reporter against an attorney and a husband and wife for the cost of depositions in the case of Loeb v. Loeb , Docket M-7097-63. The court reporter testified that he extended credit to the attorney, Jack Trugman alone, and therefore he is primarily liable. That the depositions were taken and the price reasonable are conceded. Trugman cross-claims against both husband and wife, contending that the primary obligation for payment is upon his client, Mrs. Loeb, in that he was the known agent for a disclosed principal.

In the previous matrimonial litigation there was an order amending the judgment nisi , dated December 8, 1965, in which the attorney for Mrs. Loeb was awarded a counsel fee of $1,250 and Dr. Loeb directed to pay the costs of depositions at the time of the entry of final judgment. After succeeding in the divorce action the wife sought to dismiss her action, without success in the first instance. As the result of appellate rulings in Loeb v. Loeb , 91 N.J. Super. 333 (App. Div. 1966), aff'd 50 N.J. 343 (1967), a judgment of dismissal was entered as to the wife's divorce action on December 6, 1968, which provided for "no costs."

The husband contends, under Iovino v. Iovino , 58 N.J. Super. 138 (App. Div. 1959), that because the action was dismissed at the instance of the wife he is relieved of responsibility.

At trial the wife stated that she was not notified or consulted about the taking of the depositions. Trugman testified that she was consulted and agreed that depositions be taken, although he does not assert an express promise on the part of the wife to pay for them. He does claim that by reason of prior relationship in a suit for separate maintenance,

it was clear to the wife that she would be expected to pay for the depositions.

The attorney relies upon Klein v. Boylan , 115 N.J.L. 295 (Sup. Ct. 1935), in which the client was held responsible to an engineer engaged by an attorney in aid of litigation. Accord, Klein v. Boylan , 14 N.J. Misc. 323, 184 A. 736 (Sup. Ct. 1936).

Plaintiff relies upon Baer v. Williams , 75 N.J.L. 30 (Sup. Ct. 1907), in which it was held error to reject evidence of a custom in the medical profession that where a physician calls in a physician, the consulting physician must look to the patient for payment. Plaintiff argues that the custom in court reporter-attorney dealings is that the attorney is responsible for payment.

From my observation of the parties, I am convinced that the testimony of defendant, Trugman, rather than that of Mrs. Loeb, on the question as to whether she was consulted about the taking of the depositions, must be accepted. I also accept his statement that the transcripts of the testimony were delivered to Mrs. Loeb for her perusal and do not give credence to her testimony to the contrary.

The attorney relies upon N.J.S.A. 25:1-5(b), urging that his promise, if any, is to answer for the debt of another, and it must therefore be evidenced by a written memorandum. However, if his promise was an original obligation, as plaintiff contends, the statute of frauds is not applicable. City Nat. Bank & Trust Co. of Salem v. Hassler , 9 N.J. Super. 153 (App. Div. 1950).

Therefore, the basic question as to whether the attorney is responsible to a court reporter by reason of extension of credit to the attorney cannot be avoided. The competing lines of argument may be summarized as the agency approach, supported by a very respectable line of authority (see Annotation, 15 A.L.R. 3d 531), against the contention that extension of credit to the attorney in the light of a business practice ...


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