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Whitman v. Estate of Jules Whitman

Decided: June 4, 1992.

LILLIAN WHITMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE ESTATE OF JULES WHITMAN, THE CHUBB GROUP OF INSURANCE COMPANIES, VIGILANT INSURANCE COMPANY AND FEDERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANTS



Alley, J.s.c.

Alley

OPINION

A. Introduction:

This case involves a portion of the numerous legal issues presented in several lawsuits that have arisen from an August

1988 boating accident on Lake George, New York, in which plaintiff's husband, Jules Whitman, the pilot of a motorboat, was killed. Plaintiff was the sole passenger and alleges she was seriously injured. The litigation before this court involves (1) plaintiff's tort claims against her husband's estate, and (2) her assertions that the insurance company defendants owe the estate a defense and indemnification under two liability policies. Plaintiff also is a party to a New York state court lawsuit in which the two moving defendants here, Federal Insurance Company and Vigilant Insurance Company, have already raised the very coverage issues plaintiff has now injected into this case by an amended complaint filed December 9, 1991.

Plaintiff's attorney here, Jack N. Frost, Esq., has filed a complaint on behalf of both Mrs. Whitman and the estate in a civil action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, Albany Division, seeking tort damages from various third parties. Apparently, there are no claims in that action by Mrs. Whitman against the estate. Rather, her tort claims against the estate are the focal point of the fragment of the overall litigation that is before this court, where Frost represents only Mrs. Whitman as plaintiff.

The moving defendants assert in the pending motion that plaintiff's claims against them are barred by the principles underlying the entire controversy doctrine and by fundamental notions of standing, and that her counsel should be disqualified from suing the estate, his own client in the federal action. The insurance company defendants also have sought to recover their cost of litigating this case under the Frivolous Claims Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:15-59.1. In view of the disqualification issue, the court has deferred all other aspects of the motion pending the resolution of that issue.

B. The Facts:

On August 14, 1988, Jules Whitman was operating a powerboat on Lake George and collided with a concrete sea wall. Mr.

Whitman died instantly, and Frost has asserted in this case that Mr. Whitman was negligent. Lillian Whitman, his wife and the plaintiff here, sustained personal injuries. The Whitmans have several children who survived Mr. Whitman. On April 10, 1989, plaintiff was named administratrix ad prosequendum of the Estate of Jules Whitman.

On February 19, 1991, Frost commenced this negligence action on behalf of Mrs. Whitman (the "plaintiff") against the Estate of Jules Whitman (the "Estate") in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County. Frost has testified in this case that Mr. Whitman left a will, located in Frost's office, which has never been probated and that Mrs. Whitman is the sole beneficiary of his estate. According to ...


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