United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Louis J. Devoto, Rossetti & Devoto, PC, Cherry Hill, NJ, for Plaintiff.
Kevin G. Dronson, Kent & McBride, P.C., Cherry Hill, NJ, William R. Moye, Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons, L.L.P., Houston, TX, for Defendants.
BUMB, District Judge.
This matter requires the Court to decide, in essence, whether the sins of an attorney should be visited upon his client. Here, those sins are the disturbing criminal conduct of Plaintiff's counsel, Ray Marchan (" Marchan" ), who was convicted of bribing former Texas state court judge Abel Limas (" Limas" ). Complicating this matter is the fact that this Court previously relied upon Marchan's conduct before Limas in denying Defendants' prior motion to dismiss and allowing the case to proceed.
Defendants DVCC Services Corporation and McElroy Machine & Manufacturing Company (" Defendants" ) contend that Marchan's criminal conviction calls this Court's prior ruling into question and have moved for reconsideration [Docket No. 45] of this Court's prior Opinion and Order denying Defendants' motion to dismiss [Docket Nos. 15, 16]. For the reasons that follow, this Court concludes that Plaintiff's counsel's criminal should not be visited upon Plaintiff and that counsel's conduct does not warrant reversal of this Court's prior Opinion and Order.
A brief recitation of the facts is appropriate. On January 3, 2007 Plaintiff Luis Beltran Flores (" Plaintiff" ), represented by Marchan, filed suit in Texas state court based on injuries he suffered while working as a seaman in the Gulf of Mexico— specifically the loss of most of his right arm. Almost a year later, on December 17, 2007, Plaintiff amended his initial complaint to add claims against the Defendants. The Defendants moved for dismissal
on February 5, 2008 based on lack of personal jurisdiction. That motion was denied by trial court Judge Limas on August 7, 2008. However, Defendants appealed Judge Limas' decision and, on February 11, 2010, the Texas Court of Appeals reversed the trial court. It found that, contrary to Judge Limas' decision, the Texas court lacked personal jurisdiction over the Defendants, resulting in dismissal of Defendants from the case.
Plaintiff filed suit in this Court on March 12, 2010. On August 27, 2010, Defendants moved to dismiss arguing that Plaintiff's claims were time-barred. In an Opinion and Order dated March 11, 2011, 2011 WL 883640, this Court concluded otherwise. The Court found that, although Plaintiff had failed to file this action within the three-year statute of limitations, as required, that failure was excused. The Court held that the statute of limitations was equitably tolled by Plaintiff's prior timely, but mistaken, filing of the claims asserted here in Texas state court. It held that Plaintiff's filing, and maintenance of the action, in Texas was reasonable, in large part, because Plaintiff reasonably relied on the decision of the Texas trial court judge, former judge Limas, who had found that the court had personal jurisdiction over the Defendants.
On March 18, 2011, Defendants moved for reconsideration of the Court's Opinion and Order. On July 29, 2011, 2011 WL 3273573, that motion was denied. On January 27, 2012, Defendants filed a second motion for reconsideration based on its discovery of new evidence, not previously presented to this Court, of a criminal and corrupt relationship between Marchan and Limas. At that time, Defendants informed the Court that Limas had pled guilty to accepting bribes from attorneys and that Marchan had been indicted by a federal grand jury for bribing Limas.
Defendants' reconsideration motion, and this matter, were administratively terminated, on April 3, 2012, to allow for the conclusion of criminal proceedings against Marchan and, at the conclusion of those proceedings, further briefing. A jury subsequently convicted Marchan of bribing Limas during the time period in which Limas ruled in favor of Plaintiff on personal jurisdiction. Notably, however, there is no evidence before this Court that: (1) Limas accepted bribes in connection ...