Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Giarusso v. Giarusso

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

May 29, 2018

VALERIE GIARUSSO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
WILLIAM G. GIARUSSO, SR., Defendant-Respondent. IN THE MATTER OF CARELLA, BYRNE, CECCHI, OLSTEIN, BRODY & AGNELLO, PC, Petitioner-Appellant.

          Argued May 2, 2018

          On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FM-02-1561-08.

          Christopher J. Buggy argued the cause for appellant (Carella, Byrne, Cecchi, Olstein, Brody & Agnello, PC, attorneys; Jan Alan Brody and Christopher J. Buggy, of counsel and on the briefs).

          Joseph V. Maceri argued the cause for respondent Valerie Giarusso (Snyder, Sarno, D'Aniello, Maceri & DaCosta, LLC, attorneys; Joseph V. Maceri and Ruth Kim, of counsel and on the brief).

          William G. Giarusso, Sr., respondent pro se, joins in the brief of respondent Valerie Giarusso.

          Before Judges Alvarez, Currier, and Geiger.

          OPINION

          GEIGER, J.S.C. (TEMPORARILY ASSIGNED).

         Plaintiff Valerie Giarusso retained petitioner-appellant Carella, Byrne, Cecchi, Olstein, Brody & Agnello, PC to represent her in certain post-judgment proceedings arising out of her divorce action against defendant William G. Giarusso. Pursuant to the written retainer agreement plaintiff signed, she agreed to pay petitioner an initial $5000 retainer and subsequent monthly invoices for services rendered. Although plaintiff paid the initial retainer, she did not remit any further payments to petitioner. Petitioner claims that plaintiff owes an unpaid balance of $99, 356.10 plus interest.

         Petitioner rendered the legal services to collect the alimony arrears, child support arrears, and equitable distribution owed to plaintiff by her ex-husband. After petitioner's representation of plaintiff ended, petitioner filed a post-judgment application in the divorce proceeding to: 1) determine and enforce an attorney's charging lien against plaintiff in the amount of $99, 356.10 plus interest pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:13-5; and 2) enter judgment against plaintiff in the amount of the fee award. Petitioner sought to impose the lien against the alimony and child support arrears owed to plaintiff and plaintiff's equitable distribution share of various marital assets.

         Plaintiff opposed the petition on several grounds including that she disputed the amount owed, claiming the services performed could not justify the amount billed given the amount of the retainer paid. She also contended she never received notice of the right to seek fee arbitration of petitioner's bill.

         Petitioner responded it had provided the fee arbitration pre-action notice required by Rule l:20A-6 and copies of each of the monthly invoices to plaintiff on March 7, 2013, some eighty-five days before filing the petition. The notice and invoices were sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, and simultaneously by ordinary mail. The certified mail was returned unclaimed, but the ordinary mail was not returned as undeliverable.

         After initially imposing an interim charging lien, the trial court conducted a plenary hearing. Relying on two unpublished appellate decisions, the trial court issued a June 18, 2015 order and written decision discharging the interim charging lien, denying entry of a final charging lien, and denying entry of judgment against plaintiff. The trial court issued a subsequent September 29, 2015 order with an attached statement of reasons awarding petitioner attorney's fees in the amount of $50, 000. Petitioner appeals from each of those rulings. We affirm the denial of a charging lien, reverse the denial of the entry of a judgment in favor of petitioner, and vacate and remand the issue of determining the appropriate amount of the award of petitioner's attorney's fees to the Family Part.

         I.

         Petitioner contends the trial court erred in ruling that the Attorney's Lien Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:13-5, (the Act) does not apply to legal services performed entirely post-judgment. We are unpersuaded by this argument.

         Charging liens are governed by the Act, which provides:

After the filing of a complaint or third-party complaint or the service of a pleading containing a counterclaim or cross-claim, the attorney or counsellor at law, who shall appear in the cause for the party instituting the action or maintaining the third-party claim or counterclaim or cross-claim, shall have a lien for compensation, upon his client's action, cause of action, claim or counterclaim or cross-claim, which shall contain and attach to a verdict, report, decision, award, judgment or final order in his client's favor, and the proceeds thereof in whose hands they may come. The lien shall not be affected by any settlement between the parties before or after judgment or final order, nor by the entry of satisfaction or cancellation ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.