New Jersey Attorney Cannot Sue Maryland Attorney for Interfering with His Contract with an Elderly Client

A U.S. district court rules that a New Jersey attorney who was hired by an elderly client to investigate the actions of a Maryland attorney who was acting as guardian for the client cannot sue the Maryland attorney for tortious interference of contract and legal malpractice. Farmer v. Kent (U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Md., No. TDC-20-1806, Feb. 23, 2021).

Maryland attorney Laurence Kent represented elderly Maryland resident Louise Marsh and her family for many years. Ms. Marsh named him her agent under a power of attorney and as trustee of her trust. After Ms. Marsh’s son died, Mr. Kent was appointed one of her guardians. Mr. Kent asked Ms. Marsh to sign documents allowing him to pay bills for her. Ms. Marsh became suspicious of Mr. Kent’s actions, so she hired New Jersey attorney George Farmer to investigate Mr. Kent. She signed a contract with him, agreeing to the representation. Mr. Farmer tried to gain access to Ms. Marsh’s financial information, but Mr. Kent refused to provide him with access and did not pay Mr. Farmer for his services.

Mr. Farmer sued Mr. Kent for tortious interference with contract and legal malpractice. He argued that Mr. Kent interfered with his prospective economic interest in his contract with Ms. Marsh. Mr. Kent filed a motion to dismiss.

The United States District Court, District of Maryland, grants the motion to dismiss. The court holds that because Mr. Farmer is not licensed to practice law in Maryland, his contract with Ms. Marsh was invalid and cannot support a tortious interference claim. The court further rules that Mr. Farmer could not sue Mr. Kent for legal malpractice because Mr. Kent did not owe Mr. Farmer a duty.

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